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The Ravens are down to their third quarterback, arguably their third running back and are missing key players at tight end, wide receiver, in the defensive secondary, along the defensive line and at linebacker (I think that about covers it).  So, it hardly levels the playing field that the Pittsburgh Steelers won't be starting Ben Roethlisberger, but it helps a little.

Roethlisberger will miss his first game of the season as he nurses a sprained ankle and a sore throwing shoulder. Charlie Batch, who last started in the opening game of 2006 and played pretty well, will suit up against Baltimore instead.  This year, Batch has thrown five passes and completed one for 14 yards.  But in a season when Todd Collins can start his first game in 10 years for the Redskins and drag a team into playoff contention, who knows what to expect.

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The Steelers are also probably a little concerned with the Ravens' pass rush, even though it hasn't been as effective as in the past.  Big Ben has already been sacked 47 times this year and now Steelers left offensive tackle Marvel Smith (back) just had surgery.  Pittsburgh may get him back for the second round of the playoffs, if they get that far. Smith will be replaced by Max Starks, who's really a right tackle.  Safety Troy Polamalu (knee) isn't expected to play and, of course, starting RB Willie Parker (broken ankle) is out for the year.

When you consider how beat up teams are at this time of year -- whether they're also-rans like the Ravens or playoff-bound like the Steelers -- it makes guys like Brett Fravre, Peyton Maning and Tom Brady seem all the more amazing, and fortunate.

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