As was the case two weeks ago when the Pittsburgh Steelers took on the Baltimore Ravens, one would think that they would be a team preparing for their bye week, not a critical must-win game that could decide their playoff fate. While some of the injury report seems to have improved, the Steelers will again have to man-up and face the hated Ravens without some key components, especially on offense where they must recover from the eight-turnover debacle from last week.LaMarr Woodley (Ankle) and quarterback Byron Leftwich (Ribs) are already listed as out and will be inactive. In addition, starter Willie Colon (Knee) and back-up wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery are question marks and may not suit up. On the bright side, safety Troy Polamalu (Calf) and wide receiver Antonio Brown (Ankle) appear ready to return, at least in a limited capacity.
If he can hold onto the ball, focusing on utilizing running back Jonathan Dwyer could be extremely important for the Steelers against the Ravens, who have uncharacteristically struggled stopping the run in 2012. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the loss of on field and inspirational leader Ray Lewis, who sits on injured reserve. With Charlie Batch at the helm, a balanced attack could go a long way at pulling out a victory Sunday afternoon. After last weekends display of ineffectiveness, any consistent contribution from the running game could help the dismal passing attack.
The return of Brown, and with Plaxico Burress having another week in the system, could give Batch also a boost, playing against a Ravens secondary that has some injury questions at cornerback with starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb out. The passing game could also improve if recently demoted wide receiver Mike Wallace can step up and make a play or two for the struggling offense.
Defensively, the addition of Polamalu, even in a limited capacity could help the Steelers. Polamalu has the ability to add a splash play, something that has been lacking, to a defense that is playing tremendous football as of late. His addition could also help offset the loss of Woodley, although, his back up Jason Worilds has been playing tremendously in limited action.
The Steelers will also need a more complete game by the special teams in this match-up. Looking back it was quite clear that had the special teams came to play in the first game against the Ravens; they would have pulled out a victory.
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