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It is the regular season finale for the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens will be going golfing after the game, while the Steelers will host a playoff game. Both teams have taken a beating this season as evident by their long injury reports. The Ravens are coming into the contest on a 9-game losing streak. Ending the streak and the season on a high note is what the Ravens desperately need.
Troy Smith will be the starter again. He will be without Willis McGahee (cracked ribs). His running mate will be Musa Smith, who is making his first career start. Cory Ross will be Musa Smith's backup as Mike Anderson is dealing with a thigh injury. Lee Vickers will be starting at TE as Todd Heap, Daniel Wilcox, and Quinn Sypniewski will not be playing. Demetrius Williams has been ruled out as a nagging ankle injury continues to bother him. So Troy Smith won't have many weapons for this game. It does help to know that a veteran such as Derrick Mason will be available. Mark Clayton has a nagging injury too, but is expected to play. Yamon Figurs and his world class speed should see significant playing time because of the injuries and that notion of "speed kills." The offense will probably continue with the spread formations to create some space and spread out the front seven of the Steelers. Dick Lebeau (Steelers defensive coordinator) will try to blitz Troy Smith as often as possible and mix in some zone to confuse the young QB. The offensive line of the Ravens were baptized by James Harrison in their last meeting in Pittsburgh. Expect the rookie QB to be using his mobility often to find open targets. The Genius should probably insert some rollouts and move the pocket for the former Heisman winner to give the Steelers defense something to think about when rushing the passer. Don't expect much from the running game. Although, Cory Ross could have a solid contribution because of his elusiveness and his smallish stature allows him to hide behind the offensive line. It's going to be interesting to see if Troy Smith continues to show that mature and composure that was so evident last week against the Seahawks. The Ravens will probably continue to take shots downfield because of the ability of Smith to throw the deep with accuracy. Hopefully, Mark Clayton will actually catch the passes with his hands instead of his face.
The Ravens' defense will be without their leader, Ray Lewis, for the second straight game. It means that Nick Greisen will be given his second straight start for the Ravens. The defense could be in for a long night and could see a lot of Najeh Davenport. Against the Seahawks, the Ravens defense looked out of sorts. They were slow out of the huddle and we were dominated at times by the Seattle Seahawks offensive line and Shaun Alexander. Expect more of the same in this game against the Steelers. Ben Rothlisberger will not play in this contest. So Charlie Batch will be the starting QB. The Ravens don't have to worry about the mobility of Batch as he very much statuesque in the pocket. He can move around a little, but won't make plays like Ben Rothlisberger. The Steelers will probably attack the Ravens secondary as they are without their two starting corners. Derrick Martin has grown up the last couple of games. He has become a more confident and physical cornerback after going throught the growing pains of inexperience. He will be one of the starting CBs. As for the other starting CB, it is pretty much a toss up. More than likely, the other starting CB will be Cory Ivy. Ivy hasn't really stepped up to the plate and played well since the two starting corners went down. Look for Charlie Batch to attack him as often as possible. Again, Rex Ryan will probably have safety help for the back up corners, but he'll attack Batch from start to finish. He will overload different sides of the Steelers offensive line with the blitz as he is accustomed to do at times. Can the Ravens stop the running game? If the Ravens stop the running, they will definitely have a chance to win.
Hines Ward vs. Bart Scott and Ed Reed is the match up to look for. Ward had some monster blocks on those two defenders in the Ravens Massacre back in Pittsburgh. They had a war of words after that game. It should be interesting.
I think the Ravens will end their losing streak in this game because I think the Steelers will want their health after the game more than the win. 20-17 Ravens victory. Go Ravens!