Before heading into the bye, Head Coach John Harbaugh indicated the Ravens could shake up their special teams unit.
On Wednesday, Harbaugh delivered on his word.
The Ravens waived two vested veterans, safety Michael Huff and defensive end Marcus Spears. Both 30-year-old players were signed this past offseason.
Baltimore signed two practice squad safeties, Omar Brown and Brynden Trawick, to the active roster. They will be counted on for their special teams contributions.
"To me, there's always the fact of life in the National Football League," Harbaugh said. "And what we'll always try to do is have the strongest roster we possibly can to be as good a team as we possibly can be on Sunday. We feel like these moves move us in that direction."
Huff was the primary man at fault on the Steelers' 44-yard kickoff return that set up their game-winning field goal. He got out of his lane and did not maintain containment along the sideline. Harbaugh called it "unforgivable" and Huff took the blame afterwards.
"We've got our lanes and we should have been in our lanes," Huff said. "I'm the safety on that side, so I should have cleaned it up."
Huff was the Ravens' starting free safety to begin the year in Denver, and seen by many as the heir to departed safety Ed Reed. But he was replaced by rookie first-round pick Matt Elam by Week 2 and saw sparse defensive action since.
The former first-round pick (2006) of the Oakland Raiders had just six tackles so far this season. A missed tackle in Denver that resulted in a long gain and eventual touchdown led to him being replaced on defense.
The Ravens signed Huff to a three-year contract reportedly worth $6 million this past offseason.
Spears, who signed a two-year deal worth a reported $3.55 million this offseason, also wasn't seeing a lot of time on defense, and was outperformed by third-round rookie defensive tackle Brandon Williams.
Spears, a former first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2005, missed two games due to a knee injury. He had just 10 tackles this year and had trouble in his first game back in Pittsburgh. He did not provide help on special teams.
Spears took to Twitter to thank Baltimore.
"Bmore it's been real thank you all for the support! I'm moving on you guys made this experience great for me and my family," he said. "I'm glad to have played for you all for this short period of time! Best of luck the rest of the way! Thank you all again."
Harbaugh said the moves were not made to send a message of any kind. But they did in the locker room, regardless.
"Everybody is going to be held accountable, no matter if you're a rookie or if you're a veteran," fullback Vonta Leach said.
"It just [stinks,] but it's part of the business and we've got to continue on with our season," said outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.
"It's a shocking thing," added defensive end Chris Canty, who was especially close with Spears. "Being in this business nine years, you still don't get used to it. … The message is, 'Win.' Plain and simple. If you don't get your job done, they're going to find somebody else that can get it done."
Baltimore is allowing an average of 26.4 yards per kickoff return (fifth most in the NFL) and 9.6 yards per punt return (ninth most). Brown and Trawick should help.
Known for having a nose for the ball, Brown spent last season on the practice squad. He was an undrafted rookie free agent out of Marshal last year, and has focused on improving on special teams.
Trawick is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Troy who surprised many by making the active 53-man roster out of training camp. However, he was the player who sprained Jacoby Jones' knee when he ran into him when Jones was calling for a fair catch on a punt in the regular-season opener in Denver. He was sent to the practice squad after one more game.
Harbaugh said Brown and Trawick have done a good job in practice and games on special teams, and will help there immediately.
"It will give us a chance to bolster that area a little bit," Harbaugh said.
The Ravens signed wide receiver Kamar Aiken (Central Florida) and quarterback Nick Stephens (Tarleton State) to the practice squad.
Aiken is a 6-foot-1 wideout who signed with Buffalo as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and has spent time on New England and Chicago's practice squads. Stephens is a former University of Tennessee transfer who spent time with Tennessee and Dallas.