Despite media reports suggesting that three of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ four starting linebackers could be sidelined for Sunday night’s contest, the Ravens don’t intend to stray from their initial game plan.
“I’m still going to attack the whole game plan as if they are playing because it’s a possibility,” left tackle Bryant McKinnie said. “So it doesn’t change anything. We still have to go out there and protect at a high level.”
Indeed, Pittsburgh has listed outside linebackers James Harrison (fractured orbital bone) and LaMarr Woodley (strained left hamstring) and inside linebacker James Farrior (torn calf muscle) as having participated in practice on a limited basis for the second consecutive day.
In Sunday’s 25-17 victory over the New England Patriots, Lawrence Timmons moved from inside linebacker to Harrison’s spot, and Stevenson Sylvester started for Farrior. Jason Worilds, who has missed the past four games due to a quadriceps injury, was not on the injury report and could start for Woodley.
During his weekly briefing Tuesday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin mentioned the possibility of starting four down linemen instead of the defense’s usual 3-4 alignment. That could alter the Ravens offense’s strategy, quarterback Joe Flacco acknowledged.
“It does change for the offensive line up front,” he said. “And the passing game, it will change our protection scheme a little bit. Who’s the back on? Who’s our line on? And different things about what makes me hot, what doesn’t make me hot. So it’ll change the protection up a little bit, but we see that. So many teams out there, in this league, go from 3-4 to 4-3 and back and forth in their nickel packages and base packages. So you’re used to dealing with that kind of stuff anyway. So we should be prepared for it.”
The potential absences of Harrison, a four-time Pro Bowler and the NFL’s Defensive Player of the year in 2009, Woodley, who is tied for third in the league with nine sacks, and Farrior, who had started 93 consecutive regular-season games prior to last Sunday, could hamper Pittsburgh’s ability to carry out the zone-blitz principles that have become a trademark of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s schemes.
That, however, is not the approach that Ravens coach John Harbaugh is taking.
“I don’t think it changes anything,” he said. “They play the same defense. If they’re not in there, they’ll put other guys in there. They’ll be playing the same positions, they’ll just have different numbers. We’ll have to block them just as well, and they’ll be very good players. If it’s those guys wearing those numbers, we’ll have to block those guys. That’s really how you look at it.”