RAVENS NOTEBOOK: McClain questionable v. Steelers

Street Talk RAVENS NOTEBOOK: McClain questionable v. Steelers

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OWINGS MILLS – The status of Pro Bowl fullback Le’Ron McClain’s sprained left ankle is the Baltimore Ravens’ biggest question mark heading into Sunday’s clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers. McClain was in a walking boot and had an electric stem device attached to his ankle following the Ravens’ 17-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Offensive tackle Michael Oher sprained his knee and strong safety Dawan Landry suffered a mild concussion, but both are expected to play.

In no mood to disclose injury information heading into such a big game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was tight-lipped about all three injured players.

"We’ll take a look at them and see how they respond over the next few days and see where we’re at," Harbaugh said Monday. "That’s all you’re getting."

Harbaugh isn’t obligated to reveal any information until Wednesday when he’ll file his first official injury report of the week.

If McClain is sidelined or limited, it could be a major blow against a Steelers defense headlined by active, aggressive linebackers including James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior.

Without McClain in the lineup, the Ravens wouldn’t have a strong lead blocker. The 6-foot, 260-pounder is the most physical option the Ravens have, and the only true fullback on the roster.

Against Tampa Bay, the Ravens had to utilize rookie tight end Dennis Pitta as their blocking back.

"The fullback position’s a lot of positions," Harbaugh said. "It’s fullback, it’s a wing, it’s a balanced, two-by-two formation.

"It’s trips, it’s a movement position, and Le’Ron does all those things. Obviously, you do the things with the position that the guy does best."

The Ravens managed to run the football well against the Buccaneers’ 29th-ranked rushing defense, but the Steelers are a different story altogether.

The Ravens are counting on McClain being healthy enough to play.

"I think the thing that changed our offense more than that was having Le’Ron McClain down," tight end Todd Heap said. "That takes away some of our personnel groups and our formations that we are used to running. It’s tough without a fullback in our offense.

"I might have to switch up and play a little fullback sometimes. I think the biggest thing was it changed up our personnel groups, and we don’t run a lot of the same plays out of different personnel groups. There’s some plays that are similar, but the offense just changes completely without our fullback in there."

McClain has a history of success against Pittsburgh, rushing for 207 yards and catching eight passes in seven career games.

"It’s day to day," McClain said of his ankle. "You’ll see me in treatment 24-7. I got to play Sunday. I got to play against Pittsburgh. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about."

The Ravens can use Rice and Willis McGahee in a two-back set.

They also could try Jalen Parmele at fullback.

The Ravens could also audition free agent fullbacks in case McClain is sidelined.

"Some of our other running backs can play fullback, so we’ve got some other options," Harbaugh said. "When you’ve got a week to prepare for that possibility, we’ll have more things up this week."

INJURY UPDATE: Harbaugh indicated that both Oher and Landry weren’t allowed to return against Tampa Bay by the trainers. Both were kept out for precautionary measures.

"It was medical, they came back and told us he wasn’t going to be up for the rest of the game," Harbaugh said of Oher. "That was the same with Dawan Landry."

After the game, Oher said he was relieved his injury wasn’t more serious.

"It definitely could have been worse," he said. "I should be good."

Landry has to pass a baseline test to be allowed to play. His main symptom was a headache after his big hit on running back Cadillac Williams, but it didn’t last long.

Harbaugh said that Oniel Cousins played a solid game in relief of Oher at left tackle.

"He was physical, especially in the run game," Harbaugh said. "He held up pretty well in pass protection, too."

Rookie tight end Ed Dickson was deactivated Sunday because of a hamstring injury, but could return this week.

"It’s a hamstring, so you’ve just got to wait and see how it goes. I thought we had a chance to get him Sunday, so there should be a good chance of getting him back this week."

Starting right guard Chris Chester has missed the past two games with a lower leg infection, but could return to practice this week.

"There’s a chance," Harbaugh said. "We’ll see Wednesday if he can go. Like we said before, it’s nothing inside with the infection. That’s fine. It’s just the healing of the stitches and all that."

SCRATCHED: Harbaugh said the reason why the team deactivated cornerback Fabian Washington on Sunday was to have up an extra defensive lineman against the Buccaneers’ running game. The Ravens had rookie defensive tackle Arthur Jones up for the first time.

"We were going up against a team that was more of a two-wide receiver, three-wide receiver set," Harbaugh said. "We felt like if we got jammed up, we could play Cary [Williams]. And Cary’s a special-teams guy, where Fabian is not as much of a special-teams guy. We just really wanted to get an extra defensive lineman for the running game."

Washington handled the unexpected reduction in status professionally.

"I got a head’s up early in the week saying it’s a possibility, I knew coming into the game," Washington said. "It’s no biggie. We won, 8-3. I do plan to keep pushing. I’ll be back on the field at some point."

QUICK HITS: A fifth-round draft pick from Syracuse, Jones didn’t record a tackle in his NFL debut. "It felt great," Jones said. "I’m hungry for more. I’m happy we got the win, that’s the most important part. I wasn’t really nervous. I was so fired up and ready to go. It’s a dream come true to play with Ray Lewis. I’m going to keep getting better and try to get out there and take the teaching from Haloti Ngata and the guys and try to keep getting better." … Cornerback Chris Carr accused Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Corey Lynch of cheap-shotting him on a punt return, injuring his hip. "I got hit when I wasn’t looking on a punt return when I was blocking," Carr said. "I was just standing there when some guy came up and wanted to de-cleat me. Hopefully, he should get fined on that. That’s unnecessary. There should be a fine. Unbelievable, I haven’t gotten hit like that since college. It was No. 41, and you can write that down. Knocked the wind out of me, I couldn’t breathe. My hip, my side is hurting." Harbaugh said he wasn’t aware of the play. "I didn’t see that on the film," he said. "I’ll have to go back and look at that. I’m not sure which one he’s talking about." … Running back Matt Lawrence’s season is over before it actually ever began. Due to an ongoing knee problem stemming from last year’s torn anterior cruciate ligament, Lawrence won’t be activated from the physically unable to perform list. That spells the end of his season. He played in eight games last year before tearing up his knee, recording 16 tackles on special teams. "We didn’t really get to the point of who we’d take off the roster just because he got in a situation where he just couldn’t bend to a certain degree and load on it with any power," Harbaugh said. "So he’s going to have to go back and talk to Dr. [James] Andrews and kind of go back to work on that thing. He’s not where he can play."


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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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