To say the 2012 season has been odd would be an understatement. Between things like the replacement officials that ushered in the beginning of the season, teams not playing up to expectations, the rookie quarterback class, and a game that ended in a tie, this NFL season will be hard to forget.
So it is only fitting that this formula would apply to one of the league’s most anticipated games of the year — the first meeting of the Ravens and Steelers on Sunday night.
Usually around this time, football fans see marquees and promos of the past Ravens-Steelers games. They highlight hard-hitting, trashing talking and dramatic finishes. The general consensus among the teams is dislike. This is why this rivalry is often referred to as one of the best in the league. I’ve even met people that don’t care for both teams, but when they play each other they can’t help but watch. The reason being is because it’s old school-style football, which at times can be rare.
However, this year seems different as we hear different stories headlining for this year’s first big AFC North showdown. The Ravens are suffering many injuries and have been without linebacker, Ray Lewis, since October. Then, during the week 10 closer on Monday night, Steelers’ quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, suffered multiple injuries when he was sacked. It was later reported he would miss games with a shoulder and rib injury.
The game is still being predicted to be at a close three-point spread, in favor of the Ravens.
But, the Steelers are one-game behind the Ravens in the AFC North and a victory could put them in the driver’s seat. This game will also show how much trouble the Steelers’ playoff hopes are in.
They have been playing the entire season with injuries. Safety, Troy Polumalu has been out for the majority of the season with a calf injury and the team’s other safety, Ryan Clark, has had two concussions in three-games. Both players’ statuses have yet to become official for the game against the Ravens. Like the defense, the offense has had some key-injuries at running back and wide receiver. But, Roethlisberger continued to control the offense effectively and gain big wins and despite the injuries, and the team’s slow start to the 2012 season, Pittsburgh has clawed their way to catch-up to Baltimore.
It is now that the spotlight shines brightest on the Steelers. Without quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, both sides of the ball are as vulnerable as ever. The plays made by Roethlisberger would take the pressure off of the defense and vice-versa. Byron Leftwich will have to learn the offense on a short practice week. The replacement quarterback will also be going against the No. 1 ranked red-zone defense. Without production on offense, I don’t see the Steelers having much success on defense. If Leftwich is unable to move the ball and keep the offense driving, to rest the defense, the Ravens will have a better shot at winning this game.
On the other side of the field, the Ravens are looking to build off a two-game winning streak and improve its record to 8-2. The team is coming off of a 55-20 home victory against the Oakland Raiders, a team that beat the Steelers earlier in the season. Quarterback, Joe Flacco, looks to build off the last time he and his offense played in Pittsburgh, when he drove the length of the field in the final moments to throw a touchdown to win the game.