Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Sunday, October 3, 2010, 1 pm EST, TV: CBS
Opening Line: Steelers -1.5
Current Line: Steelers -1
Opening Total: 36
Current Total: 34
Money Line: Steelers -120 / Ravens +100
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The Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0) face their biggest – and last – test without Ben Roethlisberger when they host the Baltimore Ravens (2-1) in a key AFC North battle on Sunday. The Steelers (-1 on the current NFL lines) will get their star quarterback back next week after his four-game suspension and could use him here against a Ravens team that has something to prove after they struggled in a 24-17 win over Cleveland last week.
Pittsburgh will give veteran Charlie Batch one more start under center after he performed fairly well in a 38-13 blowout win at Tampa Bay last week. Batch completed 12 of 17 passes for 186 yards and tied a career-high three touchdowns but also threw two interceptions. He entered the season as the team’s fourth-string quarterback behind Roethlisberger, Dennis Dixon and Byron Leftwich and was elevated due to the suspension and injuries to Dixon and Leftwich.
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall has helped solidify the offense with his strong play, rushing for 143 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs. Mendenhall also scored the game-winning touchdown in the season-opening overtime win over Atlanta and ranks fourth overall in the NFL with 332 rushing yards. He should be especially motivated going up against a Ravens defense that broke his shoulder blade when he was a rookie two years ago.
Baltimore’s defense has shown some weaknesses this year despite leading the league in least yards allowed with 244.3 per game. The Ravens gave up 144 rushing yards to Browns running back Peyton Hillis last week, the most they have surrendered on the ground in five years. Still, they have held Pittsburgh under 100 rushing yards in nine of the last 10 meetings.
Quarterback Joe Flacco will look to continue his improved play for Baltimore after throwing for 262 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against Cleveland. Flacco had tossed one touchdown pass and five picks in the team’s first two games, but he finally took advantage of wide receiver Anquan Boldin’s skills last week. Boldin was targeted 11 times and made eight catches for 142 yards, scoring all three touchdowns from Flacco.
However, the Ravens offense could be without running back Ray Rice, who suffered a deep knee bruise last week and has been held out of practice. Rice broke Pittsburgh’s string of not allowing a 100-yard rusher for 33 games last December and would be replaced by Willis McGahee if he is unable to play against the Steelers.
Pittsburgh leads the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 11 points per game while forcing a league-high 11 turnovers. Surprisingly, the OVER is 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings between these defensive stalwarts. The Steelers have won four of the last five meetings with a 3-1-1 mark against the spread during that stretch.
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