Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
BALTIMORE – The Baltimore Ravens’ once-impenetrable defense is beginning to show some cracks, sending the team tumbling down the standings. The Ravens will try to avoid a three-game slide and jump back into the race in the AFC North when they host the rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Baltimore was torched for a season-high 36 points in a 15-point loss at the Carolina Panthers last week after dropping a 24-23 home decision to the New Orleans Saints. “It’s apparent that two weeks in a row we weren’t very sharp,” defensive tackle Michael Pierce told reporters. “For whatever reason that is, that’s got to get corrected ASAP. We got Pittsburgh coming up. It’s personal pride. You have to man up to what everybody’s doing and see what’s going on.” The Steelers are trending in the opposite direction with wins in three straight games since a 26-14 home loss to the Ravens in Week 4, and running back James Conner is leading the charge. Conner is making fans forget about Le’Veon Bell by piling up a total of 526 yards and six touchdowns in the last three contests.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Ravens -3. O/U: 47
ABOUT THE STEELERS (4-2-1): Bell, who is holding out after refusing to sign his franchise tender, is expected to return before Week 10 but has given little indication of when that return might come, leaving Conner to grab all the touches available. “He wants to be that guy,” guard Ramon Foster told reporters of Conner. “He plays with a passion that’s out of this world.” Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is completing 67.7 percent of his passes during the winning streak but will play with a fractured left (non-throwing) index finger this week after suffering the injury in the 33-18 drubbing of the Cleveland Browns last week.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (4-4): Baltimore slid into third place in the AFC North behind Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (5-3) with the loss to the Panthers and knows it faces an uphill climb. “We are obviously not in the most ideal situation possible, but we still have eight games left,” quarterback Joe Flacco told reporters. “I feel like we have the opportunity to play really good football. We just have to make sure to keep the focus on that. I think there is obviously a bigger threat now to let this stuff affect you mentally, let it affect the team and how we are gelling together. We just have to combat that just by being ourselves and being as tough as we possibly can.” The Ravens are 24th in the league with an average of 96.6 rushing yards and made a move to improve that area by trading for Green Bay Packers running back Ty Montgomery prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline.
1. Steelers CB Cody Sensabaugh (foot) sat out practice on Wednesday and is questionable.
2. Ravens starting offensive linemen LT Ronnie Stanley (ankle), G Alex Lewis (neck) and RT James Hurst (back) are all questionable.
3. Baltimore snapped a three-game losing streak in the series with Week 4’s triumph.