The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading out of their bye week looking to get healthier and to turn over a losing streak that has many questioning whether they are actually capable of being contenders, or simply pretenders. The Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh’s chief AFC North division rival, are facing the exact same situation, and those two will collide on Sunday for a pivotal mid-season divisional showdown.
While the talk in Pittsburgh is about whether or not quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will play and if tight end Ladarius Green will be activated, Baltimore is focusing on getting their offensive line healthy, as well as their pass rushers and wide receivers.
For as many injuries as the Steelers have dealt with already this season, the Ravens have probably been able to match, or at least come close. Rookie starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley and All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda have both missed several games, and in their absence, quarterback Joe Flacco—already nursing a shoulder issue—has been taking a beating.
Meanwhile, at outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil is already sidelined, while Terrell Suggs—who has been their only successful player getting after the quarterback thus far this year, more or less—is looking to return after suffering a biceps injury that he intends to play through.
Suggs told reporters that there is no way he is missing a game against the Steelers. Steelers fans are hoping that they can say the same of Roethlisberger, but he has missed seven games against the Ravens in the past, substantially more than any other team, and about a third of all the games he has missed in his career.
Among those also looking to make their way back is wide receiver Steve Smith, who in five games caught 27 passes for 310 yards and a touchdown. Outside of Mike Wallace and tight end Dennis Pitta, Smith has virtually been the bulk of their offense, which hasn’t been much.
Smith suffered an injury against the Steelers when the two teams played last season, and said last year that he was looking to get even the next time the two teams met up. He chose not to retire after his 2015 ended with injury.
Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has also been dealing with a thigh injury that has caused him the miss two games. The former first-round draft pick has three interceptions this season to lead the team, including a game-sealing interception in Week Three.
The injury situation for the Ravens in many ways mirrors the uphill adventure that Pittsburgh is trying to work its way back from, and while the bye week has proven to be a good elixir, it wasn’t a cure-all. It will remain to be seen how many of the wounded get back for the game.
It goes without saying that, in a year in which the division looks to be on the weak side, with a relatively low win total able to lock things up, that the result of this game could play a pivotal role in how the 2016 season ends up playing out.