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When: 8:25 p.m. ET
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Point spread: Ravens favored by 3 points
Over/under: 44 point
The Pittsburgh Steelers stand to bury the Baltimore Ravens in a seemingly insurmountable 0-4 hole when the AFC North foes meet on “Thursday Night Football” at Heinz Field.
The Pittsburgh Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens in a primetime matchup of AFC North rivals Thursday night that could have a huge impact on the early-season division race. A fourth straight loss for the winless Ravens would all but eliminate them from contention. A loss by a depleted Steelers team would leave three of the four clubs with at least two losses and create significant separation in the standings for the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals.
The Ravens are in uncharted territory entering Week 4. This is the first time in franchise history they’ve started 0-3, and they are on the verge of their first four-game losing streak since 2007. They are now staring at the near-impossible task of trying to make the playoffs after losing their first three games of the season. Just three teams have done that in the past 25 years, and none since the 1998 Bills.
The Ravens are currently seventh in the NFL with 84.0 rushing yards allowed per game, and fourth at 3.4 yards let up per attempt, with linebackers Daryl Smith, Courtney Upshaw, and CJ Mosley leading the way, and rookie Za’Darius Smith also seeing the field. But Baltimore will miss starting defensive end Chris Canty (calf) for the second straight game.
The Steelers are 2-1, but they also face a tough task in trying to reach the postseason without franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a knee injury. Mike Vick takes over as the starting quarterback, and although he won’t be able to match Big Ben’s gaudy passing stats, he’s a seasoned veteran who should be capable of taking advantage of the incredible talent around him on offense.
Unlike wounded Baltimore, the Steelers defense has exceeded expectations. Pittsburgh’s allowing 17.3 points per game and the pass rush is tied for fifth in the league with 9.0 sacks. Second-year defensive end Stephon Tuitt and rookie linebacker Bud Dupree are responsible for 2.5.
But Pittsburgh could be stretched too thin up front this week. Defensive tackle Daniel McCullers (knee) and second-year linebacker Ryan Shazier (shoulder) have both been ruled out against the Ravens, while cornerback Cortez Allen (knee) is listed as questionable and could miss his third straight game.
However, the Steelers haven’t really missed Allen. Corners Antwon Blake and Ross Cockrell have filled in well for Allen, with the former leading Pittsburgh with two passes defensed.