Ronnie Stanley said there's a "strong possibility" he plays Sunday in Pittsburgh, a welcomed development with a pair of premier pass rushers on the horizon.
The Ravens' All- Pro left tackle has missed the past three games due to a knee injury when a Texans defender rolled into his lower leg. He practiced fully for the first time since early September on Wednesday and had another full practice Thursday.
"We know what this game means to us as a franchise and as a team. No one takes it lightly. We're trying to get as much firepower out there as possible," Stanley said.
The strength of the Steelers defense is at edge rusher. T.J. Watt, who lines up over the right tackle, is tied for the league lead with 6.0 sacks so far. On the other side is Alex Highsmith, who has just 1.0 sack so far this season but logged 14.5 last year.
Stanley said he and the Ravens' medical staff were trying to get him back on the field last week for the game in Cleveland but it "just wasn't there yet." He gave it a try with back-to-back limited practices last week.
Stanley has missed 35 games since suffering a major ankle injury early in the 2020 season. He's played in 19 games over that span.
"Definitely after the past couple years, it's always difficult to miss games," Stanley said. "But it could always be worse. I'm just happy I'm still here, able to come back for the season, and continue our Super Bowl run."
The Ravens offensive line has been buoyed by veteran Patrick Mekari at left tackle for the past three games. When Morgan Moses went down with a shoulder injury midway through last week's game, Daniel Faalele and Mekari were the Ravens' offensive tackles against another fearsome pass rushing duo in Myles Garrett and Za'Darius Smith, and they made it work.
Baltimore got more good news Thursday when Moses returned to the field for practice.
"They've done a great job," Stanley said of his replacements. "Credit to Pat for his commitment to this and everything he's done. There's a lot of time that he's playing at an All-Pro level."
Kenny Pickett Upgraded to Full Participant on Thursday
Steelers starting quarterback Kenny Pickett (knee) was upgraded to a full participant in Thursday's practice after being limited Wednesday. Pickett said Wednesday that he planned to play against the Ravens.
Mitch Trubisky is Pittsburgh's backup quarterback who replaced Pickett after he was injured Week 4 against the Texans. Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald said Pittsburgh's quarterback situation has not dramatically impacted Baltimore's preparation this week.
In Week 4, the Ravens didn't learn that Dorian Thompson-Robinson would start in place of Deshaun Watson for Cleveland until several hours before the game.
"I'd say the timing of how news comes out does affect how you gameplan," Macdonald said. "Last week was a little bit of a unique situation. Definitely expecting Kenny, we'll be ready for Mitchell if he happens to be out there as well."
Roquan Smith, Patrick Queen Crave Being Used Creatively
Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen crave responsibility and have the talent to handle it.
Baltimore's dynamic inside linebackers can't wait to see the game plan each week, eager to discover what Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald has in store. Macdonald keeps finding different ways to utilize the vast skillsets of his talented three-down linebackers, and they can't seem to get enough.
"I didn't think we'd be able to do this much, honestly," Macdonald said. "We're putting a lot on their plate on a per game basis. They love it. They're asking for it. I think it shows our trust in them and what we can trust them to do. Definitely a lot of credit to (Inside Linebackers Coach) Zach (Orr) and Ro and P.Q. to take on the weekly game plan what we want them to do and execute at a high level. It makes you feel good about calling things when the situations come up in a game."
Smith and Queen feel they're the best inside linebacker duo in the NFL and have the film to back it up. However, the Ravens are still evolving defensively, and the talented duo won't stop looking for new ways to wreak havoc.
"I feel like [with] my game, there's another level to unlock," Queen said. "I feel like we are just getting started. I'm just trying to be great. I'm trying to come in every day and focus on getting better one day at a time. I'm not trying to look too much into the future even though there are goals that I want to reach. I'm really just focused on 1% better each day."
Jordan Stout Had 'Best Game By Far'
Second-year punter Jordan Stout vowed to become more consistent this season and is making good on that goal. He had his best game as a Raven in Week 4 against Cleveland, punting seven times and averaging 47.7 yards per boot. Not only did Stout punt for a personal best 334 yards, three of his punts pinned the Browns inside their 20-yard line.
"I thought that was Jordan's best game by far," Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton said. "He had seven punts in the game. Those first two he would have wanted to have back. But after that, those next five, they were spot on. With Jordan, that's where we're trying to get him to consistently."
Head Coach John Harbaugh, who has been impressed by Stout's work ethic, is glad he's found a groove heading into Pittsburgh.
"Jordan is his own biggest critic, for sure," Harbaugh said. "He's very tough on himself, and yet, he has bounds of confidence, which is kind of a nice combination if you have a growth mindset. It showed up in the game. He's on track. When you go into Pittsburgh, and field position is going to be a big part of that game, he's going to be very important for us."