Even with everything that went wrong in week 11 when the Ravens came into Heinz Field and took a close victory away with them, 13-10, the Steelers had a chance to win at the end. That was without guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Troy Polamalu, and others.
This coming Sunday when the two rivals face off in Baltimore, the Steelers should be, in theory at least, better prepared to face their arch nemesis. The game plan remains to be seen but from a health standpoint the Steelers are hopeful in getting several key players back to help out Charlie Batch.
In Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference he updated the status of his injured team and gave hope that several are looking to return, including Antonio Brown.
Brown alone is a huge boost to the offense; his presence was missed more than most maybe thought when he hurt his ankle 3 weeks ago. His ability to catch the ball in the short to intermediate range and turn it into a big play cannot be overlooked. In addition to that, teams can longer just focus on Mike Wallace going deep and then crowd the middle for Emmanuel Sanders to try and navigate through.
On defense, Tomlin mentioned that Troy Polamalu, who’s played all of about 5 quarters this season, will practice this week and he could play on Sunday. The return of Polamalu will help the Steelers not only from a depth perspective but also allow the type of free lancing that Dick Lebeau loves to do with his two safety’s. Whether or not Troy can stay healthy is a different story but his return this late in the season could be a nice boost to already top ranked defense.
On the ground, Jonathan Dwyer is the man now; he will start and get the bulk of the carries this week. According to Tomlin, Dwyer has been the healthiest over the last month and the most consistent all year long. When he does need to come out, some combination of Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, and Chris Rainey will share the backup duties. This is the type of situation we’ve been screaming for all year long, find a back and stick with it; let them work the entire game and get into a rhythm. Dwyer is clearly the best choice and I for one am excited about it.
On the downside, Lamarr Woodley is doubtful and likely won’t play. His ankle injury will give way to Jason Worilds who had 2 sacks against Cleveland this past Sunday. Worilds has shown that he’s got a knack for getting after the Quarterback but does struggle at times in run defense.
On the offensive line, times are changing as Marcus Gilbert was placed on injured reserve. Rookie Kelvin Beachum will start at RT and Ramon Foster will stay at RG; although Foster will be available if needed to slide over a position. Beachum will have his hands full with guys like Terrell Suggs, who I’m sure are licking their chops at the chance to go against a rookie 7th rounder. Expect a lot of Heath Miller beside Beachum this week to help protect the quarterback. David DeCastro is on the active 53 man roster but he will still be in a backup role for this week; available if needed.
Lastly at quarterback, Charlie Batch is the starter as of Tuesday and likely will remain as such. Tomlin said they are leaving the door open for both Ben and Byron Leftwich but I’m not banking on either one being ready. Batch has the ability to manage the offense and move the chains if given enough time to throw and the game plan in hand that suits him. A healthy dose of Jonathan Dwyer coupled with the return of Antonio Brown will definitely be a boost.
Even though there are some issues still with injuries, especially on the offensive line and at quarterback, the Steelers are getting back key weapons on offense. The Ravens 24th ranked defense will give up yards, even at home, and the Steelers will have to take advantage of every opportunity to score. As long as the defense plays like it has been the last month or so, they’ll keep the Pittsburgh offense in the game….in theory.