Will Ravens Fans Prevent Terrible Towel Invasion?
The Ravens are playing at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday, but will they have a true home-field advantage?
"Thousands of Pittsburgh Steelers fans are expected to crash Baltimore for Sunday's game between the AFC North rivals, which could turn M&T Bank Stadium into Heinz Field East," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
Heinz Field East? Ugh.
Ravens fans' hearts have been broken time and time again this season, and their team has already been eliminated from playoff contention. Meanwhile, their enemies are coming to town and need a win (and a Jets loss) to clinch a post-season spot.
Seeing a terrible towel invasion celebrate a playoff berth in Baltimore would be a bitter (near) ending to a bitter season. It would mark the sixth home loss this year, one more than the franchise record already set this season.
There seems to be an increasing number of opponent fans in Baltimore as the season progresses. Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs fans made their presence felt the last two home games. And with nothing at stake in terms of a post-season run, Ravens fans may unload tickets two days after the Christmas holiday.
"I'll never judge fans for selling their tickets — personal seat licenses and season tickets are a heck of a financial commitment for mere entertainment — but you’d like to see Ravens fans protect their home turf against their biggest rival if at all possible," wrote WNST's Luke Jones.
"But I also won't fault fans trying to make some money around the holiday season as the injury-ravaged hometown team is barely recognizable at this point."
With the high-octane Steelers offense coming to town, the Ravens defense could use help from a rowdy crowd. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is always dangerous, and he's bringing with him the NFL's leading receiver (1,586 yards) in Antonio Brown.
The injury-depleted offense could also use a boost after tight end Crockett Gillmore became the eighth offensive starter to go on the injured reserve this week.
"T]he Ravens may have a [harder time than usual turning Sunday's home crowd in their favor," wrote CSNMidatlatic.com's Clifton Brown.
John Harbaugh was asked Monday whether he thinks Ravens fans will protect their house against potential terrible towel invaders, and the Ravens head coach expressed faith in the fan base that has loyally supported the team for 20 years.
"One thing I've learned through all this is (that) I don't believe we have fair-weather fans," Harbaugh said. "That's, to me, very evident, and I've been grateful for the response that our team has gotten from the fans.
"I'm sure a lot of their fans are going to be trying to get in the stadium as well. But I'm sure our fans will be up to the challenge as well. … I think they'll be fired up."
Steve Smith: Double Standard For 'Foot Locker Dudes'
Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. chimed in on the heated Odell Beckham/Josh Norman scuffles last Sunday in the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers matchup.
Beckham was suspended for one game (upheld upon appeal) after being flagged three times for unnecessary roughness and putting Norman's safety at risk with a flagrant helmet-to-helmet hit. Norman was also fined more than $26,000 for two infractions.
Beckham issued an apology and there are few who disagree with his suspension, but Smith says it never should have gotten to that point, placing blame on the referees for not tightening the reigns before things got ugly.
"The Foot Locker dudes aren't doing their jobs," Smith told on ESPN's His & Hers in the video below. "They've got to do a better job, just straight up.
"I think the people that were involved could have minimized it or shut it down or slowed it down. I think they didn't do a very good job of controlling the atmosphere, controlling the situation."
The fiery 36-year-old veteran, who is rehabbing an Achilles tendon injury, has been in plenty of his own heated battles over the years and received fines. But he sees a double standard when it comes to consequences when referees do a poor job.
He's seen plenty of wrong calls made, including one the NFL admitted cost the Ravens a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this season.
"It's not going well and somebody is going to get really hurt or they may cost a game to somebody," said Smith. "Coaches get fired when they don't do a good enough job coaching. Players get fired when they don't do a good enough job playing. The Foot Locker dudes, they don't do a good job, nothing happens."
Smith In No Rush To Make Retirement Decision, But Leaves Door Open
For now, Smith is standing by his announcement to retire. That said, he left the door open to reversing that decision and will take his time before he commits one way or the other.
"At the end of the day, I'm not rushing to make any decisions," Smith told His & Hers. "I'm on course with what I said at the beginning of the year, so I'm going to stay that course until me and my family decide."
Smith has a long recovery ahead, and he said rehabbing will be necessary to simply be healthy enough to play with his kids. So working back from Achilles tendon surgery shouldn't be seen as a sign that he'll return to the game.
"I'm going to rehab and kind of take this time that I have – and I got a lot of time now – take this time to kind of figure out what I want to do," Smith said.
Classy Move By Sam Koch
Punter Sam Koch received the first Pro Bowl nod of his 10-year career this week, and he wants to spend his trip to Hawaii with the guys that helped get him there.
Koch told core members of his punting team that he would pay for their flights to Honolulu for the All-Star game on Jan. 31.
"I'm offering to pay for all the flights for at least the guys that have been up there for much of the games this year," Koch said, per The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "If they'd rather take that, or if they'd rather take a gift or a flight voucher, I'll get that for them, too.
"We've got a great group of guys up there up front. Quite honestly, we wouldn't be where we're at if it wasn't for [Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg] and Morgan Cox, Anthony Levine, all those guys up front. Those guys are the ones who got us into this situation."
Baltimore Times reporter Turron Davenport called it a "classy move."
Even though he appreciated the gesture and is thrilled for Koch's recognition, at least one person will turn down the invitation.
"The first time I go to Hawaii, I want it to be because I earned it myself. I'm going to pass this year, but it's so appreciated," fullback Kyle Juszczyk told Zrebiec. "He doesn't have to do that and I'm sure not every punter gets gifts or offers trips to his protection team. It just says a lot about the guy."
Givens Frustrated By Lack Of Contribution
With injuries to the wide receiver corps, Chris Givens was brought to Baltimore via trade and quickly climbed the depth chart to become the No. 2 receiver.
As noted in yesterday's LFW, with ample opportunity, Givens hasn't produced as much as envisioned. He came to Baltimore in October as the speedy receiver that would perfectly match quarterback Joe Flacco's strong arm. But, since Flacco went down, there has been a carousel at the position.
"Givens, more so than any other receiver on the team, has found it difficult to make an impact amid the team's quarterback changes," wrote The Sun's Jon Meoli.
When Matt Schaub was under center in Miami, Givens had three catches for a season-high 68 yards. But with Jimmy Clausen throwing the ball, Givens has only had one catch on 10 targets.
Nobody is more frustrated than Givens at the lack of contribution.
"It’s difficult," Givens told Meoli. "At my position, I just want to go out there and make plays for my team and put us in a good situation to win. For whatever reason, I haven't been able to do that lately, but I don't want to point fingers at anyone but myself. I just want to go out and do my job the best I can.
"… It's been hard just because we haven't been able to do what they brought me here for. [Deep passes are] a big part of my game. That sets up everything else for me. It's frustrating in that sense, No. 1, because we're losing, and No. 2, just because I haven't been able to help in a way that I know I can."
Bad Time For Jimmy Smith Not To Practice
When the first official injury report came out Wednesday, one noticeable player missing from practice was cornerback Jimmy Smith. He is nursing a thigh injury sustained last week against Kansas City.
Hensley called it a "bad time" for the Ravens to be missing their best defensive back.
"The Baltimore Ravens didn't have their top cornerback in practice Wednesday, just four days away from playing one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the NFL," he wrote.
"If Smith can't play against Pittsburgh, Baltimore will have to match up cornerbacks Lardarius Webb, Shareece Wright and Jumal Rolle against the Steelers' Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant."