Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Ravens Win Not a Sure Bet

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Ravens Win Not a Sure Bet

Article excerpt

It's certainly tempting to look at what happened to Ben Roethlisberger Monday and assume that the balance of power in the AFC North Division has shifted dramatically in favor of the Baltimore Ravens -- because that would seem to be a pretty fair assumption.

The loss of Big Ben to a rib-cage/shoulder injury might even be a watershed moment in the history of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.

But if you think that means the Ravens will waltz into Heinz Field tonight and walk over the Steelers in the first of two head- to-head meetings over a span of 15 days, you might want to take a quick history lesson.

Roethlisberger has missed four games against the Ravens for various reasons, and the Ravens have taken advantage of his absence to win all four, but every one was a typical, hard-fought rivalry showdown that was decided by no more than six points.

There's no reason to think that tonight will be any different, although no one would be foolish enough to discount the impact of Roethlisberger's absence.

The oddsmakers certainly haven't. The Steelers were favored when the Week 11 betting lines opened. Now, it's the other way around. More specifically, it went the other way when it was learned Roethlisberger wouldn't play, which means the people who make their living figuring out what the score might be believe the Steelers would be about a touchdown better if Roethlisberger was healthy.

That's a big, big difference in this new era of NFL parity -- and it's something the Ravens need to exploit if they are to position themselves for another deep playoff run -- but they know it would be foolhardy to underestimate highly experienced backup quarterback Byron Leftwich.

"We can't take him for granted," Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said. "This guy is very capable of going out there and shredding us."

Even without Roethlisberger, the Steelers remain a highly talented offensive team, and their defense has allowed the fewest total yards in the league. …

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