When Joe Flacco enrolled in college in 2003, he dreamt of starting at the University of Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, the same stadium the Panthers share with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fast forward five years later to the Ravens' AFC North matchup this Monday, and the rookie quarterback will finally reach that goal.
After toiling on the Pitt scout team as a freshman, and then seeing limited action in only three games behind incumbent Tyler Palko the following season, Flacco transferred to the University of Delaware for a new challenge and the chance to play.
Flacco went 1-of-4 for 11 yards in those three games in a Panthers uniform, but it wasn't long before the first-round draft pick became the class passer of the Football Championship Subdivision. During a stellar senior campaign, Flacco even set school records by completing 331 of 521 passes for 4,263 yards, 23 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
When the Ravens made him the 18th-overall selection and brought him into the Pittsburgh-Baltimore rivalry, it was just a matter of time before Flacco would command a crowd at Heinz.
Of course, because he'll be wearing Ravens purple and black, there will certainly be more boos raining down from the stands than cheers inspired by Pitt's gold and blue.
"It's kind of weird that my first start in Pittsburgh will be on Monday night in an NFL game, not a college game," Flacco said with a chuckle. "But I'm not really looking at that. It's an NFL game. It's Monday night, and it should be a lot of fun to go out there and play a division opponent."
Flacco would be well-served to keep that level head entering his first road game. He has fared well in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium, leading the Ravens' offense to an undefeated 2-0 record and the early division lead.
Going 28-of-48 for 258 yards, while enjoying the benefits of Baltimore's stout rushing attack, Flacco's performance regularly prompts "Let's go Flacco!" chants from Ravens faithful.
On Monday night, there will no doubt be some who remember the 6-foot-6, 230-pound signal-caller from the time when Heinz was his home field, but that will probably spark more animosity than favor.
Still, the even-keeled Flacco isn't getting wide-eyed at the onslaught of jeers that await him. He's not cringing at the specter of facing the NFL's second-rated defense (one spot behind Baltimore's), a unit that owns 10 sacks. Flacco is eager to see a secondary that features four-time Pro Bowler Troy Polamalu, one of the heaviest hitters in the league.
If anything, he's looking forward to the chance to gain another notch of experience with the first road game of his young career.
"I think you're always more prepared the more games you play," Flacco explained. "Like I've said all along, the more experience I get, the more prepared I'll be the next week. That'll go and that'll hold true throughout my whole career, I think.
"I think any time you get a chance to play two home games and your first road game is Week 3 in Pittsburgh, it's definitely a benefit."
McGahee Still Swollen
Running back Willis McGahee is still suffering from a swollen eye reminiscent of a boxer's, after it was poked by a Cleveland Browns defender in Sunday's 28-10 Ravens win.
The fact that it was such an odd injury for a football game where players wear helmets, and that his right eyelid had a cut that drew blood, the Ravens sent a tape of the incident to the NFL for review.
"We asked them for their opinion on what happened, and we're waiting to hear back on it," said head coach John Harbaugh.
McGahee was limited in practice Wednesday, and his status for Monday's Steelers game could be in question.
"I don't know if [the swelling has] gone down," Harbaugh noted. "It still looks pretty bad to me. If you guys saw him in there, that thing is swollen up badly. As long as he can see, he'll play. But if he can't see, he's not going to be able to play. So, we'll have to try to get that swelling down."
Masons Fight Diabetes
Ravens receiver Derrick Mason and his wife, Marci, will co-chair the "Step Out to Fight Diabetes" event on Saturday, Oct. 4, at M&T Bank Stadium. The Mason family is inviting everyone to get involved.
On Sept. 25, all monies raised for the event will be matched up to $2,500 by Derrick and Marci personally. You can support this cause by visiting www.diabetes.org/stepout, clicking on Maryland, then on Baltimore.
Support a friend that is walking or sign up to walk and raise money yourself. The American Diabetes Association, founded in 1940, is the nation's premier voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information and advocacy. For more information, please visit www.diabetes.org or call 1-888-DIABETES (1-888-342-2382). Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.
Upon review, the NFL and the Elias Sports Bureau has taken away a team sack from the Browns game, when Cleveland quarterback tripped stepping out from center and running back Jamal Lewis fell on him. It was originally credited as one of five Ravens sacks in the contest. Baltimore now has six sacks on the season…The Ravens have won four of their last five meetings against the Steelers, including the 2007 season finale in Baltimore (27-21)…View the full Ravens-Steelers injury report.