Grubbs hoping to make long-awaited return against Steelers

November 04, 2011 | Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — One of the biggest stories from the Ravens’ convincing 35-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers to open the season was the dominating play of the offensive line.

Despite all five starters playing together for the first time — left tackle Bryant McKinnie and center Matt Birk didn’t play in the preseason — the Ravens gashed the Steelers defense to the tune of 170 rushing yards and protected quarterback Joe Flacco to the tune of a three-touchdown day. It also happened to be the only game Ben Grubbs has played all season.

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After being sidelined for six games with a right toe injury, the starting left guard practiced all week and appears to be very close to returning to the lineup. The Ravens have listed Grubbs as questionable but hope his return comes in Pittsburgh Sunday night.

“I made it through three practices and I’m still walking, so that’s a blessing,” Grubbs said.

However, Grubbs returning against the Steelers is not a sure thing with the fifth-year lineman only practicing on a limited basis. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron labeled him a “game-time decision” earlier in the week, and the Ravens appear to be holding true to that designation.

“It hasn’t been a full practice, so I think it’s a process,” coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s a plus that he has been able to practice a little more this week than he has in the past. We haven’t had him out here full-speed really yet. I am hoping. We have our fingers crossed — we have for a few weeks. It is better than it has been.”

Grubbs hadn’t tried to practice since the week following the bye when he experienced a setback after being stepped on during a mid-week workout. Veteran Andre Gurode has started the last five games in Grubbs’ absence at a position he had never previously played in his NFL career.

The Ravens’ first-round pick in 2007 isn’t counting his chickens before they’re hatched, but returning against those same Steelers he played in Week 1 would be an interesting coincidence. It would also provide a much-needed shot in the arm for an offensive line that’s struggled over the last few weeks.

“It would be a great comeback,” Grubbs said. “It was the last game [I played]. Really, this is my second week for me. My first week we played Pittsburgh; second week we’re playing Pittsburgh. It would be a huge game for me, but at the same time, I also want to make sure that my health is the main priority. If I can’t go, I can’t go, but whenever I go out there, I want to help the team.”