What's on tap for this one? Aging stars, plenty of injuries and one of the most bitter rivalries in all of sports.
We know what you're thinking, "Steelers versus Ravens again?"
It seems like these two teams play more than the regularly scheduled home-and-home series the NFL requires of division mates. In a way, the Ravens and Steelers kind of are playing each other every week throughout the season.
For the better part of the last decade, the Ravens and the Steelers have spent most of the regular season fighting to determine which team comes out on top in the AFC North. This is partly a biproduct of the annual incompetence of the division's two other teams in Cincinnati and Cleveland. Also probably worth mentioning is the fact that the Ravens and Steelers are both consistently good teams year in and year out.
Watching the Ravens and the Steelers beat the snot out of each other twice a year is actually one of the better regular features in the NFL. The league's marketing department knows that and spends a considerable amount of time ginning up other rivalries to sell weary fans. The Battle of Ohio anyone?
Unfortunately, all that black and blue caught up to both these teams this year. Ray Lewis tore his triceps. Troy Polamalu has a calf injury. And the one injured player that could really color the outcome of this game is Ben Roethlisberger, who finally has an aliment even he can't play through. Aging super stars is another theme here.
Baltimore won the last three regular season games against Pittsburgh. Another footnote of interest: the Ravens' last home loss came at the hands of the Steelers ... two years ago. The last win came two weeks ago in Pittsburgh. It had all the defense and special teams action you've come to expect. James Ihedigbo broke two of Byron Leftwich's ribs in that game.
If you feel somehow less than inspired by Charlie Batch, it's completely understandable. Making it worse is Pittsburgh holding out the possibility of Roethlisberger playing this week, aorta be damned. Roethlisberger lacks any sense of self-preservation, which is why fans in Pittsburgh love him and resort workers do not. Mike Tomlin's frightening 1,000-yard stare makes it that much more believable that his quarterback could actually play.
All this discussion about each team's marquee players obscures another important likelihood. The guys toiling in the shadows, the Ihedigbos of the world, will probably determine the outcome. It's the depth charts as much as the super stars that keep both these teams relevant, while launching the careers of personnel men around the NFL.
Baltimore can clinch the division this week, depending on what the Bengals do. Pittsburgh is fighting for a Wild Card spot. The stakes guarantee another brain-rattling battle between the two teams this week. In other words: a rivalry game.
Ravens win, 16-9.
Cast of Characters
Ben Roethlisberger, GRITMEISTER
Big Ben is questionable this week, you say? Pffft. Just another opportunity for that big ol' bastard to GRIT IT OUT and give the city of Pittsburgh a GUTSY performance that makes the whole town proud. If not for his past, I'm telling you, people would talk about Big Ben the same way they used to talk about Brett Favre. Thank God everyone found out he's a horrible person.
Mike Tomlin, Coolest Uncle
It's unclear at this point whether Tomlin is still a great coach, but you have to admit he would make for a pretty awesome uncle. The NFL Coach Uncle power rankings go (1) Rob Ryan, (2) Rex Ryan, and then Tomlin. Pat Shurmur actually is your uncle.
Plaxico Burress, Savior
Always a good sign when your team is looking to a 35 year-old free agent who was out of football all year to come in and jumpstart the offense.
Joe Flacco, Rorschach Test
If your favorite team has a great quarterback, you look at Flacco and see a perpetual disappointment. If your favorite team has a bad quarterback, you look at Flacco and see GREATNESS. There is no in between, unless you are a Ravens fan, in which case you go back and forth 10 times every Sunday.
Torrey Smith, Good Ravens Receiver?
I'm still not ready to live in a world where the Ravens have a No. 1 receiver who's not terrible. Receivers are to the Ravens what quarterbacks are to the Browns and Bills. But hey, Torrey Smith is competent whether you're ready or not!
Ed Reed, Football Jesus
Ed Reed is another man who looks like the coolest uncle of all time. Everyone's sick of Wire analogies for sports, but just for the record, I look at Ed Reed the same way I looked at Slim Charles: Respect and affection that'll last till the end of time. Fight on that lie, Ed.
Baltimore, the city most recently tied in the public imagination to The Wire. Contrary to what you might have seen, the chances of you being involved in a drug deal, dramatic assassination, or being extorted by a local city councilman en route to the stadium are low.
What you will have to do is pay $40 to park, enjoy what are largely described as substandard concessions, and then proceed into one of the louder environments in the NFL. The lesson from Baltimore appears to be this: skip the food inside, enjoy the universally acclaimed tailgating in the parking lot, and fill up on crab cakes, meat in various tubes, and National Bohemian beer before waddling into the stadium to endure three hours of adults making bird noises.
You will not need to bring purple and black camo pants. They are provided free with every Ravens ticket.
Ask the Locals: Ravens
"Hey diddle, diddle, Ray Rice up the middle."
When Rice said this after his unexpected 4th-and-29 play -- 29 yards and a foot -- he never expected it to begin appearing all over town in newspapers, local news, on t-shirts, and on SB Nation. The soon-to-be GMC 'Never Say Never Moment of the Week' may forever be known by a longer and less catchy name than 'The Immaculate Reception' or 'The Catch' or 'The Fumble.' Perhaps the Ravens need to come up with a better name, such as 'The Catch & Run' or "Flied Rice?" All entries should be posted below.
Do I look fat in this jersey?
The Ravens will be wearing their black jerseys for Sunday afternoon's game. The normal home jersey is purple, although in the past they've chosen to wear white and sometimes a combination of purple, black and white on their jerseys and pants. Fans love the all-black look and so do the offensive linemen, who prefer the slimming look. As former Ravens 350-pound defensive tackle Tony Siragusa said when he found out the team would be wearing white in Super Bowl 35, "White uniforms make me look fat!"
Ask the Locals: Steelers
The Steelers, in partnership with area youth football organizations, reserved Week 13 as their jointly run "Everyone Plays a Different Position game." The Steelers will shift center Maurkice Pouncey from center to left guard, Emmanuel Sanders from back-up WR to co-starting WR and and Senior Vice President/Data and Analytics Charlie Batch will start at quarterback.
Seriously, anyone left?
The Ravens are participating in the Steelers' support for Missing Persons of America. They will announce at halftime a $50,000 contribution to the reward in search for Burnell Michael Wallace, last seen in the greater New York area on Nov. 4. The Ravens notified the Steelers they had eyewitnesses during the team's Week 11 game confirming a figure with a No. 17 jersey appearing to look a lot like Wallace, but the Steelers later discredited the report.
Assessing the Bodily Injuries
1. Ben Roethlisberger, shoulder/ribs, maybe not
Big Ben's status 'does not look good' this weekend. You know what else doesn't look good? Your ribs puncturing your aorta. So, relax, Ben. There's always Week 14.
2. Byron Leftwich, ribs, nope
What is it with Steelers QBs and rib fractures? Leftwich isn't going to be available for this game and, sadly for Pittsburgh, that's actually bad news. It means Charlie Batch could see serious time for a playoff contender.
3. Ray Lewis, triceps, won't play
Terrell Suggs came back from an Achilles' in a ridiculous five months. Now Ray Lewis is on the verge of out-gritting Big Ben to come back from his triceps tear in six weeks. He won't play, but he will. Soon.
4. Troy Polamalu, calf, maybe
A calf injury has kept Polamalu out of all but two games this season. He hasn't played since Week 5, and hasn't practiced since the first week of October. Even if he plays, he won't be the same guy.
Gentlemen, Place Your Bets
Let's Have a Statgasm
In 140-character Conclusion...
No way Ben Roethlisberger is playing this week. Saying that, I wouldn't be shocked if Ben Roethlisberger plays this week.
Three more turnovers and we can change Drew Brees' name to 'The Pittsburgh Steelers'
Bayless calls Te'o the "next Ray Lewis." Reaction #2: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdv7ort3dl1qk2t5po2_400.gif
Troy Polamalu practiced fully. RELEASE THE DOVES! #steelers
Ok was reading my 274 mentions and a lot if great points on the RT, so if you RT something that everyone can benefit from reading I will RT
"I can't hide it, I hate everybody." --Alex Smith