Joe Flacco Wishes Ben Roethlisberger Was Playing


There are some in the I-want-to-beat-the-other-team-at-their-best camp.

There are others in the I-want-any-advantage-that-leads-to-a-win camp.

Count Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in the NFL-is-about-entertainment camp.

The Steelers will be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after he suffered a bone bruise and sprained MCL to his left knee Sunday in St. Louis. Flacco is a little bummed by that.

"Shoot, I'd love to have Ben playing in this game and going up against him for another time," Flacco said.

Why exactly?

"I just think it's good for the game," Flacco said. "It's good for football. It's good for the rivalry. You got everybody's team the way they really want it, and I think the fans feed into it more. At the end of the day, that's what it's all about. It's going out there [and] playing the game at full strength and putting on a show for the fans and trying to battle your tail off to win the football game.

"As a competitor, it's always nice to face guys that you've been going against for a while. You never like to see somebody injured, either, and have to sit out. Hopefully everything is going well with [Roethlisberger], and he'll be out there as quickly as possible."

The Ravens will instead get backup Michael Vick, who, like Roethlisberger, can extend plays and has a strong arm, but does it in a different way with more shimmy and less strength.

Vick, a four-time Pro Bowler (2002, 2004, 2005, 2010), hasn't been the same quarterback the past few years. Vick has a 6-13 record as a starter over the last three seasons with the Eagles and Jets. He posted a 52.9 completion percentage during that time with 18 touchdowns to 13 interceptions.

Vick isn't the same ultra-elusive quarterback of his yesteryears, but he's still very capable of making plays.

"He has been one of the premier players in the league for many years," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "I have a lot of respect for him. [He is a] fine quarterback. He brings unique talents to the table, and those are things we have to prepare for. But really, the preparation is for the Pittsburgh Steelers."

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said they're going to "work in [Vick's] comfort zone."* *They're going to get the ball in their other offensive playmakers' hands as soon as possible.

The Steelers have wide receiver Antonio Brown, who Harbaugh called "one of the very best, if not the best in the game."  Brown is second in the NFL with 436 receiving yards, just four yards behind Atlanta's Julio Jones.

Somewhat like Cincinnati's A.J. Green last week, Brown has been a thorn in the Ravens' side. He averaged nine catches for 117 yards and scored one touchdown against Baltimore last year.

Pittsburgh still has dangerous slot receiver Markus Wheaton and big-play threat Darrius Heyward-Bey. Pro Bowl running back Le'Veon Bell, who missed last year's AFC wild-card playoff game, is back on the field following a two-game suspension and his backup, DeAngelo Williams, has filled in admirably.

"Coach [Todd] Haley is a great offensive coordinator. They have talented players, good offensive line. It is a good team," outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said.

The Ravens are accustomed to not facing the oft-injured Roethlisberger by now. They're 5-1 in such games.

But it hasn't led to lopsided victories in Baltimore's favor. It's taken big plays from the Ravens to eek out wins.

In 2009, the Ravens faced backup Dennis Dixon at home and squeaked out a 20-17 victory. In 2010, T.J. Houshmandzadeh scored a game-winning touchdown with 32 seconds left to knock off Charlie Batch. In 2012, Byron Leftwich nearly beat the Ravens, but Jacoby Jones delivered a punt return for a touchdown and a 13-10 win. Later that same year, Batch came to Baltimore and got a 23-20 victory.

"It's going to be a very tough matchup, even without Ben Roethlisberger," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "Michael Vick is still very capable of running the offense. So, we have our hands full."

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