As a rookie with the Arizona Cardinals, Calais Campbell competed against Ben Roethlisberger in a Super Bowl. Twelve years later, Campbell and Roethlisberger are still competing at the highest level, with the Pro Bowl defensive end coming off a three-sack performance in Philadelphia and Roethlisberger leading the NFL's only unbeaten team.
Greatness recognizes greatness. Campbell still sees a quarterback at the top of his game when he looks at Roethlisberger, who has 13 touchdown passes, four interceptions, and a 99.1 quarterback rating after returning from elbow surgery.
"This is the best I've seen him," Campbell said. "He's always been great. He's locked in. He's getting rid of the ball fast, making great reads, getting the ball to his playmakers, still throwing the ball well down the field.
"You got to love what you see on tape when you watch him. He's a great player, Hall of Fame worthy. They're rolling. We have our hands full. I'm looking forward to the challenge. He's definitely up there with the best to do it."
Head Coach John Harbaugh feels the same way. He'll spend this week studying film of Roethlisberger, trying to detect anything that will help the Ravens win on Sunday.
But Roethlisberger is also a master of improvisation, and he looks more determined to avoid taking some of the big hits he has absorbed in the past. He has been sacked just eight times this season, and Pittsburgh's solid running game has made it harder for opponents to tee off with their pass rush.
Last week's trade for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue gives the Ravens another pass rusher to stalk Roethlisberger, which could be a key addition for this matchup. It's hard to fool Roethlisberger with blitzes because he has seen so much, but if Campbell, Ngakoue, Matthew Judon and other Ravens pass rushers can win their one-on-one battles, they may be able to force turnovers. If Roethlisberger throws into tight coverage, like he did in Tennessee on Sunday while tossing three interceptions, it will be imperative for Baltimore to take advantage.
"I've seen countless hours of him on tape," Harbaugh said. "Done countless breakdowns, played against him numerous times.
"Great respect for him. He's playing at a very high level. The offense is kind of his offense, it's built around him, for him. It has been for many years, but they've also tweaked it, advanced it, doing some different things than they've done in the past which has been very effective for them."
Ngakoue expected to practice Wednesday
The protocols caused by COVID-19 have made it more difficult for new players to get acclimated quickly. However, the Ravens expect Ngakoue to be on the field when they return to practice Wednesday, giving him three practices to prepare for Pittsburgh.
"My understanding is that he should be on the practice field Wednesday, if all goes well," Harbaugh said. "He's been in Zoom meetings with the coaches, learning the defense and the game plan, studying the game plan."
While the Ravens' defensive system will be new to him, Ngakoue believes coming to Baltimore in shape after playing six games with the Minnesota Vikings will help.
"It's not like I'm coming in with cold feet," Ngakoue said. "I'm coming in hot already. You just tell me what play we have to run, and I'm running it."
Harbaugh Updates Injuries to Mark Ingram, Anthony Levine
Harbaugh gave injury updates on running back Mark Ingram II and safety/linebacker Anthony Levine Sr. Their availability for Sunday's game will depend on their progress during the week.
Ingram sat out the second half in Philadelphia after suffering an ankle injury during the first half, while Levine (abdomen) missed the entire game.
"We'll see," Harbaugh said of Ingram. "It wasn't a major injury by any stretch. It's just a matter of how he feels as the week goes on."
Levine, one of the team's most important special teams players, missed his first game since 2012, but he had been playing in pain for weeks.
"He needed time," Harbaugh said. "He had been fighting through a strain, a midsection strain, really just gutting it out. Hopefully, the time will give him a chance to get right. We'll just have to see how it goes."
Ravens Look Forward to Return of Fans to M&T
The Ravens will have fans at home for the first time all season for the Steelers game, and expect about 4,300 at M&T Bank Stadium under guidelines announced last week. Players and coaches will welcome the change in atmosphere.
"I don't really know what impact the noise will have on it, but it will be nice to have people there," Harbaugh said. "I think it's great for our fans. It's great for us. A little interaction, it's nice. It's a much better environment (with fans). I hope it builds and grows and more fans are allowed to come in as the season goes along."
Campbell has stressed that it's important for players to bring their own energy to games. He still plans to do that, but he'll welcome the boost from fans. Campbell still hasn't experienced playing in front of a full house as a Raven, but he's eagerly anticipating that experience.
"I hear that this stadium, when it's full capacity and rocking, is special," Campbell said. "I've been on the other side. Ray Lewis doing his dance, seeing the whole stadium come alive. I can't wait for those days. But at the same time, having any fans is in the stands is going to be special. As a defensive player, I feed off of energy. I need that energy. Even when we played against the Eagles, they had a few fans there. You could feel the difference. I can't wait."