Ravens defense prepares for both Batch and Big Ben

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Ravens defense prepares for both Batch and Big Ben

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Less than two weeks ago, the Baltimore Ravens frustrated fleet-footed quarterback Byron Leftwich and defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers to take control of the AFC North.

In the rematch Sunday, the Ravens will face a quarterback with a different skill set. Whether it will be soft-tossing Charlie Batch or the gritty and poised Ben Roethlisberger remains to be seen.

Batch went the distance last week in a loss to last-place Cleveland. The 37-year-old completed 20 for 34 passes for 199 yards but threw three interceptions, explaining in part why Pittsburgh didn't score in the second half and finished with a whopping eight turnovers.

Roethlisberger has been sidelined since hurting his ribs and right (throwing) shoulder in a Nov. 12 win over Kansas City. The two-time Super Bowl winner threw in practice this week but is questionable for Sunday.

The Ravens (9-2) have no idea whether Batch or Big Ben will be calling the signals at M&T Bank Stadium. So they're preparing for both.

``We really don't care who lines up at quarterback,'' Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard said. ``For us, it's a game that's going to be physical. They're going to try to win whoever's under center. If Ben plays, I know what kind of competitor he is. This guy is probably one of the strongest quarterbacks in the National Football League and one of the most competitive, him and Philip Rivers. But when it's all said and done, whoever lines up, lines up. We have our own situation to take care of. We really don't care.''

The Ravens can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the desperate Steelers (6-5), who have lost two straight with Roethlisberger watching from the sideline. Leftwich broke his ribs in a 13-10 loss to Baltimore on Nov. 18, and last week Batch was part of an attack that lost the ball four times in the fourth quarter.

In the days leading up to the first meeting between the teams, the Ravens knew by Wednesday that Leftwich would start at quarterback. There is no such certainty this week, but the course of action remains identical.

``We'll do the same thing we did last time and the same thing we do every week: We'll prepare for their offense,'' coach John Harbaugh said. ``Whatever quarterback ends up playing in this game, he's going to be very capable of running their offense very well. We've seen that before. We've seen that from experience.''

Leftwich was rusty, yet he still managed to throw for 201 yards and score a touchdown. Batch lost last week, but he's 5-3 as a starter with Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger is in a category of his own, with statistics and a winning percentage that can be measured up against any quarterback in the league. But he's hurting, which could influence his effectiveness.

Still, an injured Roethlisberger is better than no Roethlisberger at all.

``If he's in there, he's in there. It definitely changes things if he plays,'' Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said. ``But if he doesn't play, we still have to go out there and play the game. No game is won on paper. It's still the Pittsburgh Steelers. They're going to come in, they're going to be hungry and will be trying to get a win.''

Whether it's Batch or Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh's quarterback will have more talent at his disposal than Leftwich did in the earlier meeting between these AFC North rivals. Wide receiver Antonio Brown returns after missing three games with a high-ankle sprain, and the Steelers added wideout Plaxico Burress last week.

``Obviously he's a heck of a player. A red-zone threat,'' Harbaugh said of Burress. ``He can run every route, he can make every catch. Just a great player.''

The key for the Steelers is having someone who can effectively get Burress the ball. The Ravens don't know if it will be Batch or Roethlisberger, or maybe even Leftwich again?

``We need to watch film on Leftwich, Batch and Roethlisberger,'' Pollard said. ``When it's all said and done, they still have the same concepts. We're going to be ready.''

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Reynolds says he committed "sin" of asking ex-Steeler for advice

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Reynolds says he committed "sin" of asking ex-Steeler for advice

OWINGS MILLS – Nobody has to tell Ravens rookie Keenan Reynolds about the intensity of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry. Reynolds admitted Friday that when seeking advice on switching from quarterback in college to wide receiver in the NFL, he asked former Steelers star Hines Ward for advice.

“I know that’s like a cardinal sin in this building,” Reynolds said after his first day of Ravens rookie minicamp. “We got to talk before the draft, to ease everybody’s mind.”

Ravens fans will certainly forgive Reynolds, especially if Ward offers helpful hints. He has also been consulting former Washington Redskin and current CSN analyst Brian Mitchell, which could help him progress as well.

As a sixth-round pick, Reynolds hopes to make an immediate impact as a receiver-returner with the Ravens, after a brilliant career playing quarterback at Navy.

Reynolds got encouraging news off the field this week, when Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, said he would do everything in his power to make sure Reynolds’ Navy commitments would not interfere with playing for the Ravens.

Reynolds said he had not received a further update on the Navy’s plans for him. But a precedent for Reynolds playing NFL football right away has already been set. Patriots long snapper Joe Cordona, who was Reynolds’ teammate at Navy, played his entire rookie season with New England last year while also working at a Naval Preparatory Academy in Rhode Island.

Cordona has been a sounding board for Reynolds.

“I’ve been blowing his phone up this whole process,” Reynolds said. “I was blowing him up on draft day. He has really helped, and his experience, obviously, being able to serve and play, has been really helpful.”

Reynolds has known for months that his NFL future would probably not be at quarterback.

“When I got invited to the (East-West) Shrine game, I saw that I wasn’t a quarterback anymore,” said Reynolds, who was listed as a running back for that game.

But Reynolds is not complaining, and he knows many people are rooting for him.

“This is an opportunity to pursue the dream at the next level, and I’m embracing it with everything I can,” Reynolds said.

Ravens assign jersey numbers, Ronnie Stanley to wear No. 79

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Ravens assign jersey numbers, Ronnie Stanley to wear No. 79

OWINGS MILLS -- For football jersey lovers, the Ravens have assigned numbers to their 11 draft picks. They are as follows:

6 – WR Keenan Reynolds

43 – CB Tavon Young

48 – RB Kenneth Dixon

49 – CB Maurice Canady

51 – OLB Kamalei Correa

72 – OT Alex Lewis

79 – OT Ronnie Stanley

81 – WR Chris Moore

91 – OLB Matt Judon

92 – DE Bronson Kaufusi

Correa will be wearing the number worn by former Ravens inside linebacker Daryl Smith, who signed with the Buccaneers this offseason. Kaufusi will wear the number once worn by former Ravens Pro Bowl tackle Haloti Ngata.

Four more draft picks sign with Ravens, raising total to six

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Four more draft picks sign with Ravens, raising total to six

OWINGS MILLS -- The Ravens announced the signing of four more draft picks Friday -- OLB Kamalei Correa, DT Willie Henry, OT Alex Lewis, and WR Chris Moore.

That meant six of the 11 Ravens’ 11 draft picks were under contract at the start of Friday’s two-day rookie minicamp. OLB Matt Judon and RB Kenneth Dixon had already signed.

Correa was drafted in the second round, the first of three players the Ravens targeted to improve their pass rush. Lewis, a fourth-rounder, is expected to compete for a backup spot at either tackle position. Moore is a deep threat wide receiver who has a chance to earn immediate playing time. Henry is a run-stopping defensive lineman who has a chance to be part of the defensive tackle rotation.

First-round pick, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, still had not signed as of early Friday afternoon. However, first-round signings traditionally take the longest.

The Ravens also announced the signing of 11 undrafted free agents:

G Jarell Broxton, Baylor

DT Travon Coley, Florida Atlantic

C Anthony Fabiano, Harvard

ILB  Cavellis Luckett, Middle Tennessee St.  

K Will Lutz, Georgia St.

OT Stephane Nembot, Colorado

OLB Victor Ochi, Stony Brook

OLB Mario Ojemudia, Michigan

ILB Patrick Onwuasor, Portland St.

DT Michael Pierce, Samford

C Matt Skura, Duke