For all the talk about the departed players from the Ravens-Steelers rivalry - Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, James Harrison, Hines Ward and others - a shoulder injury kept Ben Roethlisberger off the field for both matchups between the teams last season.
Well, Roethlisberger is back and performing much better after a poor start to the season. The Steelers quarterback is coming off his first win and highest quarterback rating of 2013. Over the last three games, Roethlisberger has completed 69.7 percent of his passes for 1,053 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Last week marked the first time he didn’t commit a turnover after having nine over Pittsburgh’s first four games.
“He’s their guy. He runs their offense,” Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb said. “The things he can do with his arm, with his feet, breaking tackles, just extending the play, he makes their offense go. He’s great at it.”
Even though Roethlisberger struggled to start the season, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees still believes he’s the same quarterback who has given teams fits over the years.
“I don’t think he’s any different,” Pees said. “The play starts about three seconds after the ball is snapped. That’s what he does. That’s what he does. He’s the best at it. And like I told the defense today, this is the best group of receivers, every year at Pittsburgh, of getting open off of scrambles. There are a lot of teams that don’t practice it.
“I don’t know how they practice it or what they do or maybe it’s just habit, because it happens in the game all the time. But you’ll see a lot of teams, where a quarterback starts to scramble, and the receiver stands there like, ‘I’m open.’ Well, he’s not open. The defense is going to cover him. These guys move. So if you’re looking back at him, and this guy is moving, he’s open. And that’s what they do best. I don’t see any difference.”
Linebacker Terrell Suggs said because of Roethlisberger’s mobility and ability to extend the play, the Ravens have to adjust their pass rush accordingly.
“Most definitely. He’s very tough to bring down, and he’s always looking to make a play downfield, especially if the rush breaks down,” Suggs said. “The guy has won two Super Bowls, that speaks for itself. He’s played in three. You’ve definitely got to alter some things.”
Minus Lewis, Reed, Bernard Pollard, Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Cary Williams, the Ravens defense has a distinctly different look from the last time Roethlisberger faced Baltimore in 2011.
With Elvis Dumervil, Daryl Smith and others joining the unit, the Ravens rank 17th in the NFL in total defense and 13th in points allowed. Roethlisberger is intrigued to see if the rivalry has the same intensity with all that turnover.
“We’ll see. It’s our first game without them,” he said. “It’ll definitely be different. I’ll still have to assume that it will just be as intense as always.”
The newcomers to the rivalry, like Dumervil, are excited to play, however.
“From a distance, it seemed pretty intense. It’s going to be good to be a part of it,” Dumervil said. “Obviously, with Ben, he’s big and he’s mobile. He’s at his strength when he moves around. We have our hands full, so we have to make sure we come to play.”