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Ravens-Steelers: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 01 October 2015 by Luke Jones

If the Ravens were desperate before their Week 3 loss to Cincinnati, how do you define their state of mind after the first 0-3 start in the 20-year history of the franchise?

Traveling to Pittsburgh on a short week is always challenging, but the Ravens are fighting themselves as much as anything else as they enter October without a win under their belts. However, the absence of Ben Roethlisberger on the enemy side offers hope as Baltimore tries to earn a road win on a Thursday night playing against veteran backup Mike Vick.

With four players — tight end Crockett Gillmore, left tackle Eugene Monroe, defensive end Chris Canty, and wide receiver Breshad Perriman — already declared out on Wednesday, the Ravens didn’t have too many decisions to make for their inactive list, but cornerback Rashaan Melvin was deactivated after struggling mightily in his season debut against the Bengals last week. The recently-acquired Will Davis will see his first action with the Ravens after being acquired from Miami for a 2016 seventh-round pick on Sept. 21.

Veteran outside linebacker Jason Babin will also make his 2015 debut after being inactive for his first two games with the Ravens. Baltimore hopes the 35-year-old rush specialist can boost a pass rush that hasn’t found consistency since the season-ending injury to Terrell Suggs in the season opener.

In addition to being without Roethlisberger, the Steelers are missing second-year inside linebacker Ryan Shazier and cornerback Cortez Allen, two absences that will hurt the NFL’s 19th-ranked pass defense.

These teams are meeting for the 39th time in the regular season with the Ravens trailing 17-21 and 7-12 in Pittsburgh. However, the Ravens have won two of the three contests against the Steelers last season, culminating with a 30-17 win at Heinz Field in the first round of the playoffs.

The forecast in Pittsburgh calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 50s with a very tiny chance for precipitation and winds up to 10 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

Referee Clete Blakeman and his crew will officiate Sunday’s game.

The Ravens are wearing white jerseys with white pants while Pittsburgh dons its black tops with yellow pants.

Here are Thursday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
WR Breshad Perriman
CB Tray Walker
CB Rashaan Melvin
OT Eugene Monroe
DT Christo Bilukidi
TE Crockett Gillmore
DE Chris Canty

PITTSBURGH
QB Ben Roethlisberger
LB Ryan Shazier
NT Daniel McCullers
TE Matt Spaeth
CB Cortez Allen
TE Jesse James
LB Anthony Chickillo

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Thursday night

Posted on 30 September 2015 by Luke Jones

The Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers appeared to be two teams moving in opposite directions, but a single injury altered that thinking on Sunday.

A knee injury to Ben Roethlisberger not only puts the Steelers (2-1) in a holding pattern for at least the next few weeks while trying to survive with backup Michael Vick at the helm, but it gives the winless Ravens hope that they can go to Heinz Field on a short week and potentially steal their first victory of 2015. Of course, it won’t be easy for Baltimore with starting tight end Crockett Gillmore, starting left tackle Eugene Monroe, starting defensive end Chris Canty, and rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman all ruled out for Thursday night.

Searching for answers and knowing only three NFL teams have rebounded from an 0-3 start to make the NFL playoffs since 1990, the Ravens’ biggest enemy at this point might be themselves as a season full of high expectations has instead started in nightmare fashion for John Harbaugh’s team. It’s officially uncharted territory for a team that had never started 0-3 in franchise history and has made the playoffs in six of the last seven years.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens play Pittsburgh for the 39th time in their regular-season history as they own a 17-21 mark. The teams split a pair of games at Heinz Field last season, but Baltimore prevailed 30-17 over the Steelers in a wild-card playoff game last January.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 5-2 in Thursday night primetime games under Harbaugh …

1. Pittsburgh will control the tempo of the game by handing the ball to Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams a combined 35 times. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley isn’t going to allow Vick to take many chances, leaving plenty of opportunities for these running backs. The Ravens rank fourth in the league allowing just 3.4 yards per carry, but the Steelers will spread out the defense to create just enough room for Bell and Williams to keep Vick in manageable down-and-distance situations.

2. Maxx Williams will catch his first touchdown and provide the Ravens with another threat behind Steve Smith. Considering how many issues the Pittsburgh defense has had with tight ends so far, Gillmore’s absence couldn’t have come at a worse time, but Williams will find room against linebackers who are poor in pass coverage. The bigger question will be how he and fellow rookie Nick Boyle fare as blockers with the Ravens desperately needing to get their struggling running game in order.

3. Brandon Williams will pick up his first sack of the season and create problems in the Pittsburgh backfield. There have been few bright spots on the Ravens’ 26th-ranked scoring defense, but Williams has been a force and the unit’s best player. With Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey out, the third-year nose tackle should dominate Cody Wallace by collecting his first quarterback takedown as well as a few other tackles for a loss to force more Pittsburgh runs to the perimeter on Thursday night.

4. Antonio Brown will still collect 100 yards receiving and a touchdown without Roethlisberger throwing to him. The Steelers likely won’t have Brown running as many downfield routes, but they will use bubble screens and other ways to get the ball to the playmaker in open space to put pressure on tacklers. It will be interesting to see if Dean Pees elects to have Jimmy Smith shadow Brown, but the Ravens better be ready to give him help against one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.

5. Vick will manage the game effectively while the Ravens lack the “it” factor to do what it takes in a 24-16 loss. I fully expect a Harbaugh-coached team to compete in this one and I’m tempted to pick the Ravens to win with Roethlisberger out, but last week was the game in which they needed to pull themselves off the mat and they still couldn’t do it. Many have cited Baltimore’s 5-1 record against Pittsburgh when Roethlisberger hasn’t played, but two active defensive players — Courtney Upshaw and Albert McClellan — took part in that last win in 2012, a game Brown also missed. The defense will be a little better than the last two weeks and the offense will find ways to move the ball, but the recurring theme of not being good enough in the fourth quarter will cost Baltimore again in a close one.

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Ravens rule out Gillmore, three others for Thursday night

Posted on 30 September 2015 by Luke Jones

(Updated: 2:30 p.m.)

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Desperate for their first win of the 2015 season as they face a daunting trip to Pittsburgh on Thursday night, the Ravens will be be without their No. 2 option in the passing game.

Second-year tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf), left tackle Eugene Monroe (concussion), defensive end Chris Canty (calf), and wide receiver Breshad Perriman all were officially ruled out on Wednesday afternoon. Even before the official designation, the Ravens weren’t exactly giving a strong impression that Gillmore would be ready to return against the Steelers.

“With Crockett being out, we have some young tight ends that we really love to coach,” offensive coordinator Marc Trestman said on Tuesday. “We love the development that they’re going through right now. We expect them to step up and play well for us.”

After registering three catches for 40 yards in the first two quarters of Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati, Gillmore did not play an offensive snap after halftime as the combination of Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle took his place. The rookies combined to register five receptions for 63 yards on nine targets in the 28-24 loss to the Bengals.

A passing game struggling to find reliable answers beyond No. 1 wideout Steve Smith can hardly afford to be without Gillmore, but head coach John Harbaugh expressed much confidence in Williams and Boyle to be able to pick up the slack.

“I thought they both played really well. I thought they both did a really good job,” Harbaugh said. “These two guys are not two guys that it’s too big for [them]. They love being out there, and they just want to make plays. They’re tough, competitive. They’re physical. They kind of remind me of Crockett a year ago.”

After being listed as a limited participant in light practices on Monday and Tuesday, Monroe was listed as a non-participant on Wednesday as he continues to go through the league’s concussion protocol. James Hurst is expected to make his third straight start.

The second-year lineman has struggled mightily this season, ranking as the worst offensive tackle in the NFL in Pro Football Focus’ grading system.

“Eugene’s been a starter for us, but James has played a lot of football as well,” Trestman said. “Right now — today — it’s James and we’ll see. Certainly, we need everybody. You always need everybody. Eugene is a big part of what we do here, so we’re looking forward to getting him back as well when that time comes.”

Pittsburgh officially ruled out starting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier after he missed practices all week with a shoulder injury. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (knee) already had been declared out on Monday as veteran backup Michael Vick will make the start for Pittsburgh.

Steelers center Cody Wallace was listed as probable for Thursday’s game after missing practice on Wednesday due to an illness. Already replacing Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, Wallace will have his hands full with Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams, and lingering effects from an illness certainly wouldn’t help in that task.

The referee for Thursday night’s game will be Clete Blakeman.

The Thursday night forecast in Pittsburgh calls for mostly cloudy skies and temperatures in the high 50s with a very small chance for precipitation and winds up to 10 miles per hour, according to Weather.com.

Below is the final injury report for Thursday:

BALTIMORE
OUT: DE Chris Canty (calf), TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), OT Eugene Monroe (concussion), WR Breshad Perriman (knee)

PITTSBURGH
OUT: DT Daniel McCullers (knee), QB Ben Roethlisberger (knee), LB Ryan Shazier (shoulder), TE Matt Spaeth (hand)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Cortez Allen (knee)
PROBABLE: LB James Harrison (thumb), C Cody Wallace (illness)

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Rich Walsh on Big Ben’s injury

Posted on 30 September 2015 by WNST Staff

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Harbaugh says he has “no idea” about any Perriman setback

Posted on 29 September 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Breshad Perriman saga continues for the Ravens.

After returning to practice on a limited basis last week, the 2015 first-round receiver appeared to tweak his right knee during a pre-game workout at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday and hasn’t practiced since then. Taking into account the walk-through nature of this week’s practices in preparation for Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh, Perriman’s absence makes it fair to conclude the speedy receiver experienced some type of a setback.

Apparently that is news to John Harbaugh, however, who said he was unaware of anything happening to Perriman on Sunday.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Harbaugh, who then asked reporters for clarification on when it had allegedly taken place. “No idea what you’re talking about.”

The head coach offered no explanation as to why the rookie hasn’t practiced this week.

Even if Perriman never stood a good chance to play against the Steelers, the Ravens likely would have wanted him to practice on a limited basis to merely give Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin and his team the impression that he might play. There’s no other logical explanation for Perriman not practicing again other than the Ravens’ training staff electing to slow his activity level after he pulled up lame on Sunday.

The 26th overall pick of April’s draft sprained his knee on the first day of training camp on July 30.

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Rob King previews Ravens-Steelers on TNF

Posted on 29 September 2015 by WNST Staff

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Will Graves on all things Pittsburgh

Posted on 29 September 2015 by WNST Staff

 

 

 

 

 

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Jimmy Smith trying to shake off disappointing start to 2015

Posted on 29 September 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Asked how he shakes off one of the most difficult games of his NFL career, Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith demonstrated by literally shaking his arms and shoulders while smiling.

Even when dealing with an 0-3 start, it’s important to have a sense of humor — and a short memory — when competing in an NFL secondary. That’s not to say that Smith didn’t take his poor performance hard on Sunday, declining to speak to the media after giving up the game-winning touchdown pass to four-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green in the 28-24 loss to Cincinnati.

“I took the loss as a loss,” said Smith, who apologized Monday for being “too emotional” to talk after the defeat. “It wasn’t so much that I was just so down on myself, it was just a loss. I didn’t play as well as I wanted to, so all of that affected it.”

Signed in the offseason to a four-year, $41 million contract extension through 2019, Smith appeared ready to pick up where he left off last season, returning a Peyton Manning interception for the Ravens’ only touchdown in a 19-13 season-opening loss to Denver. However, the 27-year-old cornerback has struggled since then, allowing a long touchdown to Amari Cooper in the Week 2 loss at Oakland before being torched by Green in Week 3.

In three games, Smith has been thrown at 28 times and has allowed 18 receptions for 275 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s a stark contrast from a year ago when the 2011 first-round pick was targeted just 39 times in eight games and allowed 20 receptions for 163 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. A Lisfranc injury that required season-ending surgery last November short-circuited a Pro Bowl-caliber campaign and forced Smith to spend much of the offseason rehabbing, but he was mostly a full participant in training camp and played in two preseason games.

The early-season woes have led many to wonder if his left foot is still an issue 11 months after the injury. A problem to the foot area can be debilitating at a position requiring backpedaling and such frequent changes in direction, but Smith wouldn’t comment on the possibility of any lingering effects.

“People come back from injuries; they play,” said Smith, who’s missed 17 games due to injuries in his young career. “Until this season is over, I’ll never talk about my foot.”

Identified as one of the leaders of a defense trying to fill the void of the injured Terrell Suggs, Smith said he isn’t lacking confidence despite allowing Green to make seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown when they were matched on Sunday. He cited his preparation and film study as the biggest reasons why his recent play won’t shake his confidence moving forward.

Of course, the proof lies on the field where he’s appeared hesitant to engage in press coverage such as when he was beaten badly by Cooper on the 2015 first-round pick’s touchdown in Week 2. His early third-quarter interception of Andy Dalton on Sunday was a flash of what he’s capable of doing, but Smith hasn’t carried the same swagger on the field that he did a year ago when he had appeared to finally arrive as one of the best cornerbacks in the AFC.

The struggles have been across the board in the secondary as the Ravens currently rank 29th in pass defense. Miscommunication, technique flaws, and poor tackling have plagued Baltimore in each of the last two weeks, but Smith views these issues as correctable with better preparation as well as “effort and will” to bring down ball-carriers.

“There are times when we’re playing at a high level; it’s just we’ve got to be way more consistent,” Smith said. “Even though they’re huge plays, it’s a minor technique that we’re missing or that we’re not completing. So, it’s not even the calls; it’s things we have to fix and clean up, and we’ll get that done.”

Trying to rebound from the first 0-3 start in team history to save their season, the Ravens need Smith playing at his highest level in order to do so. Other than the passing combination of quarterback Joe Flacco and wide receiver Steve Smith, there may not be a more important player to the Ravens’ success than Smith when he’s playing at his best.

For what it’s worth, teammates and coaches haven’t lost faith in him despite the last two weeks.

“Jimmy is one of our best corners,” linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. “He’s one of the good players on our team — great guy, great teammate. Some days you give up plays; some days you make plays. That’s just the National Football League, and I wouldn’t want to take any other corner but him.”

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Gillmore, Perriman sit out light practice on Monday

Posted on 29 September 2015 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Needing to regroup quickly after a third straight loss to begin the 2015 season, the Ravens returned to practice with a trip to Pittsburgh rapidly approaching on Thursday night.

Conducting little more than a walk-through practice on Monday evening, Baltimore was without tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf), wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee), and defensive end Chris Canty (calf). After making three catches for 40 yards in the first two quarters of Sunday’s 28-24 loss to Cincinnati, Gillmore did not play an offensive snap in the second half, leaving rookies Maxx Williams and Nick Boyle to pick up the slack at the tight end position.

It remains unclear whether Gillmore will be able to play on Thursday, but his absence would spell trouble for a passing game struggling to find any consistent production beyond the 36-year-old Steve Smith. Williams and Boyle combined to make five catches for 63 yards against the Bengals.

“The biggest thing those guys have to do is just go in and play within themselves,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “They can’t try to do too much. They just have to catch the ball, run block — do the simple things. When you’re a young player — even when you’re a veteran player — it’s all about doing the fundamental, simple things right. If they can concentrate on those little things, then they’ll do just fine.”

Perriman’s lack of participation on Monday indicated he was still feeling the effects of tweaking his knee during a pre-game workout on Sunday, the latest frustration in a long recovery from a sprained knee suffered on the first day of training camp in late July. The 2015 first-round pick had practiced on a limited basis late last week, but his status against the Steelers was still up in the air before he pulled up on his knee Sunday morning.

Now it appears all but certain that Perriman won’t play against Pittsburgh. Even before the setback, the rookie wideout didn’t do any real work with his starting quarterback during his limited time on the practice field last Thursday and Friday.

“I honestly didn’t get to do too much with him last week,” Flacco said. “I know he was out here going through a little bit of stuff, but I have no idea how he feels and what’s actually going on. I didn’t get to throw to him. It’s not something that I’m going to worry about until I know for sure that he’s coming back.

“Just tell me when he’s coming back. Other than that, don’t really bother me with it, because it’s not something we can worry about at this point.”

In positive news, left tackle Eugene Monroe took part in his first practice since suffering a concussion on the opening drive of the 2015 season opener in Denver. Listed as a limited participant in the light practice, Monroe has been in the league-mandated concussion protocol, but it remains unclear whether he’s been cleared to return to live action.

Meanwhile, the Steelers officially ruled out Ben Roethlisberger for Thursday’s game after he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament and bone bruise in his left knee in Week 3. The Pittsburgh quarterback is expected to miss at least four weeks while veteran Michael Vick takes the reins of one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Steelers linebackers James Harrison (thumb) and Ryan Shazier (shoulder) also sat out the first practice of the abbreviated week.

Below is Monday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Chris Canty (calf), TE Crockett Gillmore (calf), WR Breshad Perriman (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Eugene Monroe (concussion)

PITTSBURGH
OUT: QB Ben Roethlisberger (knee)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Cortez Allen (knee), LB James Harrison (thumb), DT Daniel McCullers (knee), LB Ryan Shazier (shoulder), TE Matt Spaeth (hand)

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Ed Bouchette previews Ravens-Steelers on TNF

Posted on 28 September 2015 by WNST Staff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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