Ravens at Steelers -- Week 11
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Spread: Steelers by 3.5
Forecast: Much different from last Monday's rain and wind, Pittsburgh should have three consecutive, 50-degree and dry days before Sunday night. Temperatures should be in the low 40s and falling through the game. No chance of showers.
Records: Ravens (Overall: 7-2, AFC North 3-0); Steelers (Overall: 6-3, AFC North: 1-0)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Nov. 6, 2011: Baltimore 23, Steelers 20, on a Joe Flacco-to-Torrey Smith pass with eight seconds left at Heinz Field, as the loss ultimately cost the Steelers the division title; Sept. 11, 2011: Baltimore 35. Steelers 7.
Series record: Steelers lead 18-14, though the Ravens have won three of the past four and four of the past six regular-season meetings.
What matters: This won't resemble any Ravens-Steelers game that most remember. No Hines Ward (retired). No Ben Roethlisberger vs. Baltimore's Ray Lewis (both hurt). No smothering defenses keeping this matchup in the teens, at best. They're both still winning teams, but with offense nowadays -- at least the Steelers were until Roethlisberger hurt his shoulder and ribs. And the strangest part? This is merely the appetizer. These two meet again with the division on the table, a fortnight later in Baltimore.
Who matters: QB Flacco vs. QB Byron Leftwich isn't the gunslinger's duel normally expected in this rivalry. Flacco is 2-0 against Steelers backups thrust into starting roles for Roethlisberger, beating Dennis Dixon (2009) and Charlie Batch (2010). Batch also lost a meaningless season-finale against Troy Smith and the Ravens in 2007. So when Roethlisberger fails to play, the Steelers have gone 0-3 against the Ravens. Long answer short, Big Ben matters. Can Leftwich make a difference?
Key matchups: The Steelers' front seven were manhandled by Kansas City (1-8) on Monday, as Jamaal Charles rolled to 100 yards on 23 carries. Ray Rice owned three of the four 100-yard games against the Steelers over a four-year span at one point, but the Steelers of 2011 and 2012 have yielded triple-figure performances with greater regularity than in previous years. Rice's running and catching puts significant onus on defensive ends Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood along with accompanying outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Super safety Ed Reed of Baltimore has one interception in his past seven games, for all of one return yard.
Injuries of note: For patchwork Pittsburgh, it's all about the injuries. Leftwich, twice acquired to be the No. 2 quarterback, never before got a chance to start for the Steelers because he's been injured. He last won a start with Jacksonville in 2006. His best chance is with a better cast around him. RB Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) was practicing to try to play his third game of the season and first in five games, while Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) hopes to play after missing the past 1¼ games. Oh, and scratch Pro Bowl super safety Troy Polamalu (calf) plus starting offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert (foot) once again, too -- Polamalu has played 19 snaps all season, and Gilbert gave way to rookie Mike Adams four games ago, all coincidentally Steelers' victories.
Inside stuff: Once the Steelers' identity clarified, injuries to Brown and Roethlisberger made them murky. Brown's injury also hurt the special teams. That means starting receiver Emmanuel Sanders cannot be put into the vortex of potential injury as a returner, either. So injuries aren't a one-for-one deal; there is trickle-down effect. . . If Mendenhall is healthy, he could provide a timely and profound difference in the passing game against a Lewis-less Baltimore defense. Expect the Steelers to try to utilize some running back --rookie Chris Rainey? Surprising Jonathan Dwyer? Isaac Redman? -- if not Mendenhall in the passing game more than usual this season.
Connections: The Ravens and Steelers are connected by disdain and dislike.
Stats you should know: The Steelers are 4-0 this season in Heinz Field and have won 11 of their past 12 at home. That lone loss? Baltimore last season in the final seconds. . . . The Steelers are 40-12 in prime-time television home games, but just 6-5 on Sunday nighters. By contrast, they're 24-5 on Monday night. . . Week 10 is Groundhog Day to Mike Tomlin's Steelers: They have started 6-3 in each of Tomlin's previous five seasons, and 7-2 his first one (2007). . . Leftwich was 0-3 as a starter for Tampa Bay in 2009 and 0-2 for Atlanta in 2007. His last victory as a starting quarterback came with the team that drafted him, Jacksonville, on Oct. 8, 2006 against the New York Jets. He has played in 15 of 83 NFL regular-season games since then.
Looking ahead: The Steelers visit Cleveland the Sunday after Thanksgiving before playing at Baltimore the following week.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Steelers 17
Follow Steelers reporter Chuck Finder on Twitter @CBSSteelers and @cfinder.