Quick Links

Steelers' Roethlisberger ruled out for Ravens game

Steelers' Roethlisberger ruled out for Ravens game

PITTSBURGH (AP) For the third consecutive game, the Steelers will be without their star quarterback. At least it appears as if they'll have the quarterback of their defense and the reigning team MVP back on the field.

Ben Roethlisberger will not play Sunday in Baltimore, meaning Charlie Batch will make his second consecutive start at quarterback for the Steelers (6-5), who have lost each of the first two games Roethlisberger missed.

Unlike a defeat at home two weeks ago to the rival Ravens (9-2) and an upset loss this past Sunday in Cleveland, however, the Steelers likely will have safety Troy Polamalu and receiver Antonio Brown in uniform and active.

Polamalu and Brown both practiced fully all week and are listed as probable.

Brown, voted MVP by his teammates last season, confirmed he will play against the Ravens. But he did add, ``I'm definitely sore, definitely feeling it right now.''

Brown was knocked out of a 24-20 win over the New York Giants Nov. 5 due to an ankle injury. He was walking gingerly in the locker room.

``But you've got to persevere,'' Brown said, ``and get there and take care of myself. I don't want to put a percent on (how the ankle feels). I'm just relying on my spirit right now. I'm looking forward to Sunday, excited for the opportunity to get back out there.''

Brown expects to add to the four career passes he's caught from Batch, who threw three interceptions in a 20-14 loss in Cleveland that dropped him to 5-3 as a starter over 11 seasons in Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger threw briefly early in practice Friday but was in a sweat suit watching by the time practice ended. He will miss a third consecutive game since sustaining a sprained right shoulder and a dislocated rib in a 16-13 win against Kansas City Nov. 12.

With top backup Byron Leftwich (ribs) also out, the Steelers turn again to the Batch, 37.

``He's getting more and more comfortable. You could tell last week - that first day of practice - he was kind of a little off,'' receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. ``But this entire week, he's had three good practices, and we're looking forward to it hopefully transitioning to the game.''

Polamalu, a five-time All Pro, has not played a full game since the opener in Denver because of a right calf injury. He returned to play against the Philadelphia Eagles Oct. 7 but left in the first quarter when he re-aggravated the injury. Without him, though, the Steelers have ascended to No. 1 rankings in total defense and in passing defense.

``It means a lot (having Polamalu back), getting leadership and stability out there again,'' defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau said. ``Our guys have done a good job without him. I don't think he will be able to be out there every snap but he is going to be able to take a significant role.

``Let's face it: When you can have him on the field, it's a plus for us.''

Also ruled out for the Ravens game is linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Woodley left Sunday's game in Cleveland during the first quarter with an ankle injury. Fill-in Jason Worilds had two sacks the rest of the game to give him a team-high five.

With rookie Mike Adams (ankle) not available Sunday, the Steelers turn to their third-string right tackle, rookie seventh-round pick Kelvin Beachum. That might not be the only shuffling along the offensive line. Guard Willie Colon is listed as questionable due to a knee injury that flared up late last week and prevented him from playing in Cleveland.

Colon returned to practice - albeit in a limited capacity - on Friday after sitting out the Wednesday and Thursday. If he cannot play, the Steelers will move All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey to left guard and start Doug Legursky at center.

Pouncey's athleticism makes him a good fit for guard, a position the Steelers originally considered putting him at after drafting him in 2010.

``I'm going do what's best for the team,'' Pouncey said. ``The coaches asked me to do it, and I said, `Not a problem.' It's football. I'm an O-lineman, and I've got to adjust to it. It's still run blocking and pass blocking. It's not like I'm running screens or anything.''

---

NOTES: WR Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) is questionable, while LT Max Starks (back) and NT Casey Hampton (illness) are probable. ... The Steelers haven't lost three in a row since 2009. ... After the Ravens game, Pittsburgh closes with San Diego, Dallas, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Ravens under the Microscope: Best case, worst case for QB Joe Flacco

Ravens under the Microscope: Best case, worst case for QB Joe Flacco

Clifton Brown and Bo Smolka have put 25 key Ravens under the microscope this month, forecasting a best-case, worst-case scenario for at least one player every day.

This is the final installment, ending with the Ravens’ most important and highest-paid player.

RELATED: RAVENS PLACE SIX ON PUP LIST

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Joe Flacco, 31-year-old quarterback

Best-case scenario:

Flacco enjoys his best season, becomes a more consistent regular season quarterback, and leads the Ravens to the playoffs.

Why it could happen:

Already a Super Bowl MVP, Flacco is entering what should be the prime of his career.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees all had their best statistical seasons at age 30 or older. It’s a great sign that Flacco has recovered well enough from knee surgery to be ready for training camp. Barring any setbacks, the knee shouldn’t be an issue.  It’s also important that Flacco is working with the same coordinator, Marc Trestman, for a second straight season. Trestman and Flacco had growing pains in 2015, but they’re beginning this season with far more familiarity with each other. Meanwhile, the additions of wide receiver Mike Wallace and tight end Ben Watson give Flacco two additional veteran targets.

On paper, Flacco has more weapons than ever, particularly if tight end Dennis Pitta and wide receiver Breshad Perriman are healthy enough to be factors. Flacco’s arm strength, toughness, composure in pressure situations, and ability to make every throw are hard to question.

If rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley and the rest of the offensive line give Flacco time to survey the field, the stage is set for Flacco to have his best season.

Worst-case scenario:

Flacco’s game doesn’t ascend to another level, and as a result, neither does the Ravens’ offense.

Why it could happen:

Stats aren’t everything, but Flacco has never thrown for more than 4,000 yards in a season, has never thrown for 30 touchdown passes in a season, and has never had a quarterback rating higher than 93.6, which he had in 2010.

All of that may have to change for the Ravens to make the playoffs. Flacco has been a phenomenal post-season quarterback, but it remains to be seen if he can eliminate some of his regular season valleys. The Ravens invested more heavily in Flacco during the offseason, rewarding him with a three-year, $66 million contract extension that included a $40 million signing bonus.

To whom much is given, much is expected.  

Meeting higher expectations, while bouncing back from his first major injury, is the challenge facing Flacco.

RELATED: CAN SUGGS STILL BE AN IMPACT PLAYER?

Quick Links

Will Suggs still be an impact player when he comes off PUP?

Will Suggs still be an impact player when he comes off PUP?

Clifton Brown and Bo Smolka are taking turns putting 25 key Ravens under the microscope leading up to veterans reporting to training camp. They’ll speculate on a best-case, worst-case scenario for at least one player every day, concluding with quarterback Joe Flacco on July 25.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: Terrell Suggs, 33-year-old outside linebacker

Best-case scenario:

Suggs makes a full recovery from Achilles injury and returns as a double-digit sack artist and three-down linebacker.

Why it could happen:

Suggs knows people are wondering how much quality football he has left. It’s dangerous to write off great players too soon. Suggs would love to silence skeptics with a strong season, and if some of the young Ravens pass rushers develop, they won’t have to overwork Suggs. If he stays healthy once he comes off the PUP list, a player with Suggs’ talent and experience can still be a valuable defensive leader.

Worst-case scenario:

The Achilles injury limits what Suggs can do, and he is no longer an impact player.

Why it could happen:

It’s asking a lot of Suggs to remain a cog in the Ravens’ defense, after 106 ½ career sacks, and entering his 14th NFL season. Sooner or later, the NFL road will end for Suggs, just like it ended for his former great defensive teammates like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. It will be interesting to hear Suggs’ thoughts on his career when he meets with the media Wednesday. If 2016 is not Suggs’ last ride, the end of the journey is getting closer.

RELATED: FIVE YOUNG PASS RUSHERS TO WATCH

Quick Links

Five young pass rushers to watch, with Suggs and Dumervil on PUP

Five young pass rushers to watch, with Suggs and Dumervil on PUP

With Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil starting training camp on the PUP list, the Ravens’ young pass rushers have an opportunity to show what they’ve got.

It’s not surprising, or overly alarming, that Suggs (Achilles) and Dumervil (foot) aren’t ready to participate in full-team practices, which begin Thursday. The priority for them is to be ready by Week 1.

But the reality is that Suggs is 33 years old and Dumervil is 32 – closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. Remember when the Ravens loaded up on pass rushers in the draft? Training camp and the preseason will shed light on which young pass rushers are ready to contribute, and which ones are not.

RELATED: RAVENS NAME SIX PLAYERS TO THE PUP LIST

Here are five young Ravens pass rushers to watch closely during training camp and the preseason:

Kamalei Correa, rookie OLB

Correa might see more time at inside linebacker as a rookie, because the Ravens are looking for a starting inside linebacker next to C. J. Mosley. However, Correa’s skills as a pass-rushing outside linebacker at Boise St. convinced the Ravens he was worthy of being a second-round pick. If Correa is getting pressure on quarterbacks, the Ravens will find consistent snaps for him.

Matt Judon, rookie DE

He led the nation in sacks last season with 20 at Grand Valley State. As a fifth-round pick, Judon is making a major leap to the NFL and he is raw. But he also has size (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) and athleticism. Judon could earn an immediate role as a situational pass rusher.

Bronson Kaufusi, rookie DE

He’s huge (6-foot-6, 285 pounds). He’s mature, already 25 years old after completing a two-year Mormon mission before attending BYU. And he’s athletic, good enough to spend one season on BYU’s basketball team before focusing on football. The Ravens’ third-round pick, Kaufusi could also earn a role as a situational pass rusher.

Victor Ochi, undrafted OLB

Ochi (6-foot-1, 245 pounds) has a body build like Dumervil – powerful with a low center of gravity. The Ravens have had at least one undrafted rookie make their roster for 12 straight years. Ochi could extend that streak. He was hoping to be the first player from Stony Brook ever drafted. Now he’s hoping to prove he should have been drafted.   

Za’Darius Smith, second-year OLB

Smith finished strong as a rookie. Of his 5 ½ sacks, 3 ½ came over the final three games. According to Smith, Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants 10 sacks from Smith this season. If Smith becomes a double-digit sack artist, the Ravens’ pass rush will take a major leap.

MORE RAVENS: WILL SMITH'S BODY BETRAY HIM AGAIN?