Opponent Preview Update: Steelers at Ravens

Ben Roethlisberger, Terrell Suggs

AP Photo/ Gene Puskar

As promised in my earlier post, here is the updated information about who is playing, as well as a little bit of a rant. Gotta have those from time to time…

Since both teams are coming off their bye weeks you would expect both teams to be relatively close to full strength. And for the Steelers, this is true, or at least what passes for full strength. The only player listed as definitely out is Cody Wallace, Backup Center and Occasional Proctologist. And in fact I believe Wallace is headed for IR, because the hyperextended knee he suffered in the pre-season isn’t responding well. And “Cody Wallace” would also be the presumed answer to Hombre de Acero’s Smoldering Question No. 1 this week, in regards to who gets bumped from the roster should Ladarius Green be activated from the PUP list. It doesn’t appear this is happening for Sunday, but I’m guessing it will be soon.

There are no Steelers listed as Doubtful, and three listed as Questionable—Ben Roethlisberger, DeAngelo Williams, and William Gay, surprisingly, who I’m guessing got hurt in practice this week. This is probably part of the reason that Artie Burns is getting the start this week in Gay’s slot. The presumption is that Gay, assuming he can play at all, will go back to his typical slot slot, if you see what I mean. And to be honest this is probably the best use for him at this point in his career, assuming Burns can step up to the plate and win the job on a more permanent basis.

As for Ben, it’s pretty difficult to imagine he won’t be playing, unless he has a massive setback. (Remember, the new NFL injury status markers no longer contain a “Probable.”)

As for Williams, I expect it will be a combination of how well he feels and how much they plan to try and run the ball. The Ravens are actually pretty good at stopping the run. In fact, they are currently No. 1 in the league, according to Football Outsiders. Their pass defense, on the other hand, is only No. 22, so it would seem unlikely the Steelers’ game plan includes a great many running plays. But what do I know?

This list does not, of course, include any of the guys on semi-permanent IR (in the sense that one of them could possibly return.) This includes Bud Dupree, Ryan Harris, Senquez Golson, and Jerald Hawkins. Of those four, I’m guessing the only one we could possibly see would be Dupree. But not this Sunday, at any rate.

As for the Ravens, the list is surprisingly long, including several guys who have been ruled out. Two of them at least are good news for the Steelers—Elvis Dumervil and TE Crockett Gilmore. The third is their 2016 rookie linebacker, Kamalei Correa. He is a backup at ILB, so that isn’t a huge deal one way or the other as far as I can tell.

The Ravens also do not have anyone listed on the Doubtful list, but the Questionable list is long, and contains some players I personally hope are not out there on Sunday, including Terrell Suggs, who tore his left biceps midway through October. In a sense, I suppose I should hope he’s playing, because it is hard to imagine an OLB being as effective as usual with a recovering bicep tear.

But Suggs is hardly the only Raven on the Questionable list I’d love to see rest their injuries for another week. Here is the list:

  • LB C.J. Mosley (Thigh)
  • WR Steve Smith Sr. (Ankle)
  • T Ronnie Stanley (Foot)
  • LB Terrell Suggs (Bicep)
  • CB Lardarius Webb (Thigh)
  • G Marshal Yanda (Shoulder)
  • CB Tavon Young (Concussion)

The lack of C.J. Mosley might make Ben Roethlisberger breathe a little easier. If the Ravens are missing Steve Smith, the task of the Steelers’ secondary just got simpler. The lack of Marshal Yanda would definitely make the task of the defensive line easier. And Lardarius Webb would, I’m sure, also not be mourned by the Steelers’ offense.

And here comes the rant, or mini-rant. Ivan wrote, in his “Roasting the Goose” series, and very eloquently too, about the cost in terms of the interest of the games when the “stars” are absent from injuries. Part of what drives both of us nuts is not only the steadfast refusal of the league to consider larger rosters, but the push for a longer regular season with 18 games. (The latter appears to be at least temporarily on the back burner. It might stay there even longer if TV revenues start to decline.)

It’s all very well to say you’re concerned about player safety, blah blah blah, but propose something which is going to directly affect how likely players are to get injured. It’s bad enough now. Just imagine what Week 19 games are going to look like, across the league. If I was a coach and nothing was riding on the game (either because the team was already eliminated from the post-season or they already knew their playoff seeding) I would be largely playing the backups. Or the backups to the backups. If any of them were left.

I suppose one could argue that larger rosters would further dilute the product. I doubt this, though. There are a lot of guys who, given the opportunity, might show themselves to be something special. It’s difficult not to think of James Harrison, who was slow in developing.

Another guy who is currently interesting me is Cobi Hamilton. He went home to rope calves or whatever they do out there on ranches in Texas because he couldn’t seem to stick with any of the teams who gave him a tryout. He may turn out to be a six-day-wonder after all, but he sure showed a lot of promise the past two games.

Since this is only a mini-rant, that’s all I’ve got to say. But I’m guessing that fans of either the Ravens or the Steelers are pretty tired of looking at the injury list by now. Last year was epically bad for the Steelers, and was by the end of the season matched and exceeded by the Ravens. Whatever the reason(s) for this, if I were an NFL exec I would be looking for answers down every byway.

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