Heckling Ravens Fan Feeds Hampton Pregame Hot Dog
Apparently heckling Ravens fans like to take shots at Steelers defensive tackle Casey Hampton's figure when he visits M&T Bank Stadium.
But the massive 325-pounder isn't bothered by the numerous "fat jokes" that come his way, especially when they are accompanied by a free hot dog.
"They tough," Hampton said of Ravens fans, per Ken Laird of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. "They talk just as bad as anybody else. I've heard every fat thing in the world so that doesn't bother me too much. Sticks and stones, man, I know I'm fat, it ain't no big deal.
"There's one fan, I don't know his name,* *but we go at it every year. He brings me a hot dog out and everything. He takes care of me. That's my guy."
You can't expect a man with the nickname "Big Snack" to turn down a hot dog. Even a critical division rivalry game doesn't spoil Hampton's appetite.
"[I eat it] all the time, no question," said Hampton. "After the first couple of times seeing there was nothing wrong with it. It's pretty good. Just plain, before the game I don't want to upset my stomach too much. I just eat it plain. Usually, I'll put ketchup and mustard on [a hot dog] though. A little Gatorade with it, it's good."
Taylor Tried To Rile Up T. Smith
Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith doesn't like to talk trash, but his silence didn't stop Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor from dishing it out.
Taylor usually defends receiver Anquan Boldin, but Pittsburgh decided to put their top corner on Smith for the first round of the 2012 Steelers-Ravens rivalry two weeks ago. After all, Smith burned the Steelers for a thrilling game-winner last season.
Per CBSSports.com's Jason Butt, Taylor started the game in Smith's ear, hoping to rile him up. And it worked at first.
"He talks trash, and for me – [I'm] someone who doesn't talk trash – sometimes it'll get to you a little bit," Smith said, per Butt.
"It's part of his game. (He talks) about stuff that has nothing to do with the game. I have a lot of respect for him. It started out that way, but once he realized I don't really talk trash, it was pretty cool. I have a lot of respect for him, and we'll see how it goes."
It'd be a safe bet that Pittsburgh will put Taylor on Smith again Sunday, seeing as the Ravens second-year receiver only notched one catch for seven yards last time.
Smith welcomes a repeat matchup.
And it should be an interesting one to watch.
"He was matching, but I wouldn't say he was glue on me," Smith said. "He didn't press, he just played off. Their gameplan worked. For us, we have to be on the same page and take the opportunities that present themselves. They did a great job. You have to give them credit where it's due. We have to be on the same page more often this time."
Doesn't Look Good For Ben
The Ravens admit they have no idea who will be under center when the Steelers come to town this weekend.
Up until now, the word on the street was that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was 50-50.
The two-time Super Bowl winner doesn't sound too confident himself. He said he is still feeling pain from both his shoulder and rib injuries, and he can only sleep in certain positions at night.
Roethlisberger has been practicing in a limited capacity this week, and has been testing his ability to throw. He says he isn't sure whether he is capable of making all the necessary throws for his team to succeed.
"Can I put a lot of zip on the ball, throw it really hard before people like Ed Reed and defenders can get to the ball?" Roethlisberger said. "If I can't, I'm not putting us in the best situation to win the game."
Bouchette believes it would be more prudent to rest their starting quarterback against the Ravens and save him for a final push during the remaining four games of the season.
"He's not ready, he'd be playing behind a makeshift offensive line and in a place not conducive to winning Steelers football," Bouchette wrote. "Remember they tried it in San Francisco last year and that did not go so well. They can make the playoffs without winning Sunday, and who is to say they cannot win without Roethlisberger?"
The Ravens are preparing for either Roethlisberger or Charlie Batch this Sunday (see video below), but ESPN's Jamison Hensley says that's not a big deal and doesn't require a lot of extra work.
"Even if Roethlisberger plays … you can't expect this to be the same quarterback who shakes off pass rushers and escapes the pocket," the AFC North blogger wrote. "Three weeks removed from dislocating a rib, Roethlisberger will likely be as mobile as the 37-year-old Batch."
Lewis Didn't Practice, But Does It Matter?
Thursday marked the first day linebacker Ray Lewis was eligible to practice, but he wasn't present during the portion of practice open to media.
Lewis was placed on the injured reserve-designated to return list after tearing his triceps on Oct. 14, and he is currently rehabbing at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills.
But the fact that Lewis isn't eligible to play in a game until Dec. 16 against the Broncos makes his practice status less important – for now.
"[T]here really isn't any sense of urgency this week for the 13-time Pro Bowl selection to return to the practice field," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "As it is, Lewis is ahead of schedule in his return from an injury that was originally feared to be season-ending."
At this point, Hensley says the bigger concern is the ankle injury to Lewis' backup, Dannell Ellerbe. Ellerbe is eligible to play, and has performed well in Lewis' absence, but has not participated in practice yet this week.
Week 13 Picks: Steelers vs. Ravens
Eric Allen is all alone.
The ESPN analyst is the only person below to go out on a limb and predict that the Steelers will beat the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Everyone else? They say, with or without Roethlisberger, Baltimore will secure a victory and a fifth-straight postseason berth.
The Baltimore Sun: 7 of 7 pick Ravens
Zrebiec: "Regardless of who is playing quarterback for Pittsburgh, the Ravens want nothing more than to knock their hated rival out of the division race, and they'll get it done behind an offense that hasn't been stopped often at home."
ESPN.com: 11 of 12 pick Ravens
Yahoo! Sports: 3 of 3 pick Ravens
SportingNews.com (Vinnie Iyer): Ravens 20, Steelers 16
"Unfortunately for the Steelers, they may need to play two games in three weeks against their hated AFC North archrivals without Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers will have limited confidence playing with backup quarterback Charlie Batch in Baltimore —* *especially with other parts of their offense struggling, too. On the other side, the Ravens realize this is Ray Rice's time of the season, and they will feed him often to seal the win."
FoxSports.com (Peter Schrager): Ravens 24, Steelers 16
"'Fourth-and-29' will join 'The hay is in the barn!' and 'Ball So Hard University' as mainstays in Ravens fan lingo for years to come. The most amazing part of Ray Rice's 29-yard catch and scamper last Sunday wasn't Anquan Boldin's bone-crushing block or Rice's elusive moves — it was the fact Joe Flacco threw a 2-yard check down pass on fourth-and-29! These Ravens aren't as dominant as their 9-2 record reveals, and they're not nearly the same defensive team they once were. But they're winning games. And that's all that matters. A second straight season sweep of the Steelers? It sure looks like it to me."
CBSSports.com (Pete Prisco): Ravens 17, Steelers 13
"It doesn't look like Ben Roethlisberger will go for the Steelers here, which means they face a tough task to win on the road. Charlie Batch was bad last week. Baltimore's offense hasn't exactly lit things up, so this might be another Ravens-Steelers punt-fest."
SI.com (Peter King): Ravens 27, Steelers 13
"I can't see Ben Roethlisberger playing; that dislocated-first-rib injury is just too serious to see him playing after 20 days. Talking to Terrell Suggs after the first game a couple of weeks ago, he almost seemed melancholy to be playing Pittsburgh without Big Ben. I do believe, however, the Ravens would prefer a melancholy win over a loss to enriched Pittsburgh."
ProFootballTalk.com (Mike Florio): Ravens 19, Steelers 7
"With or without Ben Roethlisberger, the Ravens are tough to beat at home. And even though it would be fitting for the Steelers to win in Baltimore after the Ravens won in Pittsburgh, the Ravens are the better team — and the Steelers are on the verge of a late-season implosion. All that's left is for coach Mike Tomlin to vow to "unleash hell."
ProFootballTalk.com (Michael David Smith): Ravens 23, Steelers 7
"The Steelers need this one, but they're not going to get it. Without Ben Roethlisberger the Steelers just aren't a very good team, and I expect the Ravens to earn a big win that helps them pull away in the AFC North."
- Ravens starting cornerback Corey Graham said he's almost fully recovered from a stomach virus that caused major nausea and sidelined him at practice Wednesday. [The Baltimore Sun]
- The Ravens could benefit from the Steelers' decision to alter Mike Wallace's role. [The Baltimore Sun]
- John Harbaugh goes biblical to describe Ravens.* *[NFL.com]
- The Ravens by far have the best special teams in the NFL. [Football Outsiders]
- Actor Josh Charles, who co-stars on "The Good Wife" on CBS and is a passionate Ravens fan, put together a fun video of Ray Rice's 4th-and-29, ["Run On For A Long Time."](https://www.dropbox.com/s/9w87gzi23fvuzal/Ray Rice from Rutgers....mov)