Know Thy Enemy: Steelers vs Ravens - Act II

Every week, I will be contacting the editor of the FanSided team blog the Steelers are playing that Sunday.  This week I wrote five questions to Riley Babcock, editor of the Ravens blog Ebony Bird.  Check out what he has to say after the jump, and be sure to visit his site and let him know what you think about what he has to say.

1) Seven weeks have passed since the last meeting between the two rivals – what’s different this time around regarding the Ravens?

Injuries. The Ravens have suffered some injuries that have set the team back a bit. LG Ben Grubbs is the biggest of these. He hasn’t played since the first Steelers matchup but he returned to practice this week. The offensive line has faltered without him. Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode stepped into the guard spot and filled it nicely but Grubbs has been there for awhile and his presence is missed.
Everyone was excited when the Ravens brought Lee Evans in but now he says he might be able to play before the season is over. His ankle injury turned out to be much more serious than everyone thought and as a result, many young players have had to step up. Rookies Torrey Smith and LaQuan Williams out of Maryland have seen some reps but their inconsistency has hurt the Offense.
2) Speaking of rivals – do you feel it’s kind of ridiculous that it’s still even a debate of whether the Steelers/Ravens rivalry is the best rivalry in football?
I think it’s a no-brainer. I’ve never seen two teams in any sport hate each other more. Every game between the two has a special quality to it that you just can’t put your finger on. Some may argue that Bears/Packers is better, but if those two games were on at the same time, I guarantee that over 3/4s of the people would be watching Steelers/Ravens. Football is a violent sport to begin with, but when these two teams enter the ring, they don’t come out in one piece. You can’t beat this rivalry.
3) After a fast start from Flacco, he’s had a few up and down performances.  Do you see any particular reason for this or is he still just being built up as something that he really isn’t?
It’s tough to say. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has received a lot of blame which I believe is granted. I think his time in Baltimore is done and the Ravens need to move on. As previously mentioned, the poor offensive line play hasn’t helped at all but I think he just hasn’t progressed at the rate everyone expected. He still makes rookie mistakes at times and experience is the only remedy. I don’t know what the problem is as four years experience seems like enough but his play doesn’t back it up. He definitely has some talent but the tumblers haven’t clicked into place yet.
4) The Steelers injury list is pretty extensive with lots of question marks next to so marquee players.  Two parter here: a. How disappointed would you be if guys like Hines Ward and James Harrison don’t play in this game?  b. do you think it matters to the outcome if they don’t?
I’ve never liked beating a team when they’re not at full strength because it’s not as satisfying. If you want to prove your better than someone, do it with no handicaps. If you come up short, than you just got outplayed. If I had my way, I’d like for everyone on both sides to play. Hines Ward and James Harrison have helped make this rivalry the way it is. It won’t feel right if I don’t see Ward smirking at the end of a play.
I don’t think Hines Ward will make a huge impact as younger receivers like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders have taken over some of his responsibilities. James Harrison can simply not be replaced. He’s a great pass rusher and the Ravens job will be made much easier if he’s not in.
5) Predictions?
This game is as hard as any to predict. These two teams are as evenly matched as I’ve ever seen. With the two top defenses entering this match up, I will say that this will be a low scoring game. As for the result, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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