The Pittsburgh Steelers will be facing a desperate team that happens to be their most bitter rival, and they’ll have to do so without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger when they host the winless Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night in an AFC North matchup. Roethlisberger suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Sunday and is expected to be sidelined a minimum of four weeks.
Roethlisberger’s absence will put the onus on Michael Vick, who was signed late in training camp after struggling in a backup role with the New York Jets last season. “It’s definitely going to change a lot of things because the offense is really run through (Roethlisberger),” said Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who returned to the lineup last week after serving a two-game suspension to open the season. The Ravens have concerns of their own, becoming the last team in NFL history to open a season 0-3 and putting Thursday’s matchup in the must-win category. “We’re going to find a way out,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “We will come out of this the other way.”
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS, NFLN.
LINE HISTORY: The Roethlisberger-less Steelers opened as 2-point home dogs and have moved to +2.5. The total opened at 45.5 and has been bet down to 44.
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Ravens (+1.5) – Steelers (+2) + home field (-3) = Steelers -2.5
Ravens – CB T. Walker (probable Thursday, thigh), DL C. Canty (questionable Thursday, calf), WR B. Perriman (out Thursday, knee), T E. Monroe (out Thursday, concussion), TE C. Gillmore (out Thursday, calf).
Steelers – LB J. Harrison (probable Thursday, thumb), CB C. Allen (questionable Thursday, head), LB R. Shazier (questionable Thursday, shoulder), DT D. McCuller (questionable Thursday, knee), TE M. Spaeth (doubtful Thursday, hand) QB B. Roethlisberger (out Thursday, knee).
WEATHER REPORT: It will be partly cloudy at gametime with a very slight 13 percent chance of rain in Pittsburgh. There will be a strong 10 mile per hour wind gusting towards the southern endzone.
WHAT CAPPERS SAY: “The 0-3 Ravens find themselves in ‘must win territory’ when they invade Pittsburgh to meet the Steelers Thursday night. Oddly, with a break or two, Baltimore could be 3-0 as all three of their losses have been by six or fewer points. Pittsburgh remembers last year’s playoff loss to the Ravens but with Ben Roethlisberger’s knee injury they will forced to operate with Michael Vick behind center. Can’t envision the Ravens 0-4, not with Vick 2-9 SU/ATS as a dog in his NFL career in games when his team is off a SUATS win.” – Covers Expert Marc Lawrence.
ABOUT THE RAVENS (0-3, 0-3 ATS, 2-1 O/U): Baltimore has lost its three games by a combined 16 points, including a 28-24 setback to division rival Cincinnati in which it blew a pair of leads in the final seven minutes. Joe Flacco threw for 362 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Steve Smith, who may have been premature in announcing his retirement after hauling in 13 catches for 186 yards – his second straight game of at least 150 yards. Justin Forsett and the ground game have been unable to get untracked while the defense has struggled since pass-rushing linebacker Terrell Suggs suffering a season-ending injury to his Achilles tendon in Week 1.
ABOUT THE STEELERS (2-1, 3-0 ATS, 1-2 O/U): Vick has been plagued by turnovers in the past few seasons, but he has the luxury of leaning on Bell and wideout Antonio Brown, who already has 29 receptions and is second in the league with 436 receiving yards. Bell, who rushed for 62 yards and a TD and caught seven passes for 70 yards in last week’s 12-6 victory over St. Louis, was held in check in both regular-season matchups against the Ravens a year ago, managing only 79 yards rushing. The 35-year-old Vick, who was 5-of-6 for 38 yards in relief of Roethlisberger, had eight TD passes versus five interceptions in the last two seasons but fumbled nine times, losing four.
* Ravens are 0-4 ATS in their last four games following a SU loss.
* Steelers are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games overall.
* Over is 4-1-1 in the Ravens last six games versus the AFC North.
* Over is 11-4-2 in the last 17 meetings in Pittsburgh.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The public is fading the Roethlisberger-less Steelers with 60.31 percent of wagers backing the Ravens.