OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Making final preparations for their second meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers in three weeks, the Ravens have once again gained the upper hand on their biggest adversary in terms of health as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was ruled out by Pittsburgh on Sunday.
Tight end Ed Dickson was listed as doubtful for Sunday after missing three straight practices this week as he recovers from a knee injury sustained in last Sunday’s 16-13 win over the San Diego Chargers. The third-year tight end sustained no major ligament damage, but coach John Harbaugh anticipated his practice time to be extremely limited this week.
The Ravens coach offered nothing new on the status of Dickson or inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who is listed as questionable after not practicing all week. Defensive end Pernell McPhee and cornerback Chris Johnson are also questionable against the Steelers after working on a limited basis throughout the week.
“Nothing really new to report on injuries,” Harbaugh said. “All the guys are in the same status as they were early in the week. We’ll just see how they get to Sunday.”
Ellerbe was present for Friday’s practice but did not participate, labeling himself a “game-time” decision on Sunday. He would likely be replaced by some combination of Brendon Ayanbadejo, Albert McClellan, and Josh Bynes in the lineup should he not be able to play.
The fourth-year linebacker injured his ankle in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Chargers and did not return.
“I’m getting better everyday,” Ellerbe said. “The swelling [is better]. They say it’s looking good. It’s just the strength and the pain.”
With Dickson unlikely to play, the Ravens are left with a conundrum at the tight end position in terms of blocking responsibilities as Dennis Pitta is considered a stronger receiver but does not fare well when asked to block. Third tight end Billy Bajema has been active the last two weeks and will likely see time as a blocker against Pittsburgh, but the veteran doesn’t offer much as a receiver. .
The Ravens have held out hope all week that Dickson would be available, but Friday’s designation did not paint an optimistic picture.
“[Dickson] is a quick healer. He is moving around good, so we’re really not going down that road yet,” offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said Thursday. “We’ve got plenty of guys that can block. Dennis can block, Billy [Bajema] can block. If you can’t block, you’re not going to be here. I’m glad we have depth at tight end.”
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh will not only be without Roethlisberger as outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, right tackle Mike Adams, and backup quarterback Byron Leftwich were also ruled out. This means former New England quarterback Brian Hoyer — only signed last week — will serve as the backup to veteran Charlie Batch with the Steelers’ other two signal-callers sidelined against the Ravens.
The news of Roethlisberger not being available was no surprise after pessimistic reports about his practice work on Thursday, but Harbaugh offered a humorous and historical take on the Pittsburgh quarterback’s status before he was officially ruled out Friday afternoon.
“I’m expecting to see Willis Reed come jogging down the tunnel,” said Harbaugh, referring to the Hall of Fame center for the New York Knicks who made a heroic return from injury in the 1970 NBA Finals. “That’s the expectation. And if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”
As expected, safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Antonio Brown were both listed as probable after practicing fully all week and will make their returns to the field after extended absences due to injury.
OUT: CB Jimmy Smith (abs)
DOUBTFUL: TE Ed Dickson (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: LB Dannell Ellerbe (ankle, knee, finger), CB Chris Johnson (thigh), DE Pernell McPhee (thigh)
PROBABLE: WR Anquan Boldin (knee), DT Terrence Cody (elbow), CB Corey Graham (illness), WR Jacoby Jones (ankle), TE Dennis Pitta (neck), S Bernard Pollard (chest), S Ed Reed (shoulder), WR Torrey Smith (thigh), LB Terrell Suggs (ankle)
OUT: T Mike Adams (ankle), QB Byron Leftwich (ribs), QB Ben Roethlishberger (right shoulder), LB LaMarr Woodley (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: T Willie Colon (knee), WR Jerricho Cotchery (ribs)
PROBABLE: WR Antonio Brown (ankle), DT Casey Hampton (illness), S Troy Polamalu (calf), T Max Starks (back)