The surging Pittsburgh Steelers are about to embark on a key stretch of its schedule in which it will face the division-leading Baltimore Ravens twice over the next three weeks, beginning Sunday night in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately for the Steelers, they are likely to be without the services of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for at least this week and maybe beyond because of an injury to his throwing shoulder.
Given the uncertainty surrounding Roethlisberger’s status, the Week 11 NFL odds have yet to post a line for Sunday’s Steelers-Ravens matchup. Baltimore (7-2), which pasted the Oakland Raiders 55-20 on Sunday, holds a slim one-game advantage over the Steelers in the NFC North.
Pittsburgh re-entered the divisional race by winning its previous four games, including an overtime scare at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs Monday night. In that game, Roethlisberger suffered what’s being described as a sprained shoulder and had to be replaced by veteran backup Byron Leftwich. As of mid-week, team officials sounded resigned to the fact Roethlisberger was unlikely to play and Leftwich would be making his first start since 2009.
That turn of events is a huge blow to a Steelers’ team that has been playing as good anyone in the NFL over the last month. Pittsburgh has already lost its top two running backs to injury and with Roethlisberger now out, it could prove especially difficult for the Steelers to move the ball against the Ravens.
Luckily for Pittsburgh they have one of the finest defenses in the league to help pick up the slack. The latest incarnation of Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” ranks first in total defense (265.7 yards a game), first in pass defense (171.1 yards a game) and seventh in points allowed (19.7 points a game).
Pittsburgh likely needs to split these upcoming two games with the Ravens if they are to have any chance at the divisional crown. That makes Sunday’s game at home vitally important. With that said, the loss of Roethlisberger is huge as he has virtually carried the Steelers’ offense this season while performing at a league MVP level.
That development seems to have Baltimore poised to extend it division lead Sunday night with a straight-up road win over Pittsburgh.