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BALTIMORE — The stakes are clear as the Ravens welcome the hated Pittsburgh Steelers to Baltimore for the 39th all-time meeting between the AFC North rivals.
A win puts John Harbaugh’s team in prime position to at least secure the No. 6 seed in the conference and advance to the postseason for the sixth consecutive season. However, a defeat all but ends Baltimore’s playoff hopes as it would give Pittsburgh a one-game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker and force the Ravens to need to run the table over the final quarter of the season just to get to 9-7.
Of course, the Ravens will need to top quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who owns a 7-2 record against Baltimore in the Harbaugh era. The Ravens have never gotten the best of the veteran quarterback with the stakes at their highest late in the season.
Despite not activating tight end Dennis Pitta from injured reserve-designated to return, the Ravens find themselves in excellent shape physically as only reserve rookie safety Brynden Trawick (ankle) is inactive due to an injury. As expected, defensive end Chris Canty is active and will start after he was listed as probable with a shoulder injury.
Veteran wide receiver Brandon Stokley is also active for the second straight week while second-year wideout Deonte Thompson will be inactive once again.
Meanwhile, the Steelers will be without two defensive starters as nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) are inactive. For Woodley, it’s his third straight missed game, but the Steelers have received strong play from outside linebacker Jason Worilds over the last few weeks.
Al Woods will start in place of McLendon at nose tackle while rookie Jarvis Jones will start for Woodley.
The Steelers lead the all-time regular-season series with a 20-15 advantage along with a 3-0 edge in postseason play. The Ravens are 8-9 in Baltimore against Pittsburgh and are trying to avoid a season sweep to their AFC North adversary, which would be the first since the 2008 season.
In the 13 meetings between these teams since 2008, 10 have been decided by four or fewer points and the last four games have each been decided by three in what’s been regarded by many as the best rivalry in the NFL.
Unlike the last three games in which the Ravens have played, Thursday’s game will not be complicated by high winds as the forecast for kickoff calls for temperatures in the mid-30s and winds only reaching three miles per hour.
Thursday night’s referee will be Clete Blakeman.
The Ravens will be wearing black jerseys and black pants while Pittsburgh dons its white tops with gold pants.
Here are Thursday night’s inactives:
S Brynden Trawick
S Omar Brown
RB Bernard Scott
OL Ryan Jensen
WR Deonte Thompson
LB John Simon
DT Brandon Williams
OLB LaMarr Woodley
QB Landry Jones
WR Derek Moye
CB DeMarcus Van Dyke
TE Richard Gordon
ILB Stevenson Sylvester
NT Steve McLendon
Follow WNST on Twitter throughout the afternoon for updates and analysis as Drew Forrester, Nestor Aparicio, and I bring live coverage from M&T Bank Stadium throughout the night.