On Sunday, two weeks will have passed since the Baltimore Ravens last went to war with the Pittsburgh Steelers – a war they found themselves victorious in despite less than stellar play from their offense.
Though they are only 6-5, the Steelers own the title of the NFL’s top-ranked defense. They could get even better this week, as safety Troy Polamalu is expected to return from playing the piano in Head and Shoulders commercials a calf injury that has sidelined him since Week 5.
Given that the Ravens own a three-game lead and can clinch the AFC North with a win over them and a Bengals loss, the Steelers are a desperate team; however, some players aren’t buying the motto of desperate times calling for desperate measures.
“They understand the magnitude of the game, what it means for their season and what it means for the other team and they’re going to give us their best shot,” said wide receiver Torrey Smith.
The potential addition of Polamalu to the Steelers defense won’t have Smith preparing any differently for Sunday’s game.
“Not at all,” Smith replied. “They’ve been playing great without him and they’re still the No. 1 defense in the league. I think it says a lot about their team and their organization and for us, we’re just going to have to bring our A-game.”
Much like Ravens safety Ed Reed, Polamalu’s play-making abilities are off the charts. Even though he’s been hampered by injury all season, Ravens coach John Harbaugh is going to be aware of the future hall of fame safety if he’s out on the field.
“Obviously, with Troy, you have to be aware of him at all times,” he said. “They’ve done a great job of playing defense back there without Troy. So, you add a guy like that in the mix, obviously, what a factor it can be.”
If Polamalu is able to play on Sunday, he’ll have his sights set on quarterback Joe Flacco. Polamalu and Flacco have a history together, typically with Polamalu having the upper hand.
“He just has a good knack for the game of football,” Flacco said. “ He just has a feel for the game. While you try to combat that and account for him, there is always a certain amount that you really can’t account for what he is going to do. So, you just have to go out there, play your game and take care of him by playing sound, fundamental football.”
With the Steelers in a do-or-die situation, it’s expected that all hands will be on deck if they’re even somewhat able to play on Sunday. Polamalu was listed as a full participant in Steelers practice on Wednesday, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had limited participation.
With wide receiver Antonio Brown already slated to return on Sunday and Roethlisberger and Polamalu practicing on Wednesday, it appears the Ravens won’t be lucky enough to avoid many of the Steelers’ injured playmakers the second time around.