As Ray Lewis said, "Here we go." It's rivalry week in Baltimore as the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday to take on their hated rivals. Here's what I'll have my eye on from my sofa in Hampden:
1. The fourth-string QB: The suspension of starter Ben Roethlisberger and injuries to backups Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon forced the Steelers to use 13-year veteran Charlie Batch under center against the Buccaneers in Week 3. Batch threw three touchdown passes in a 38-13 win. Putting up numbers like that won't be as easy against the Ravens' top-ranked pass defense, but Batch has earned the respect of the Ravens defense. "Charlie Batch has been around for a long time, and he's been around for a reason: because he is a veteran presence who understands the game of football," Lewis said. The Ravens hope to put an end to Batch's old-man magic Sunday.
2. Ray Rice's right knee: Rice suffered a bruised knee in the win over the Browns, but he said Thursday that he's sure he'll be ready to play. "I feel great," he said. That's great news for the Ravens because they'll need him against the Steelers' stout run defense. Rice racked up 141 yards on the ground the last time he faced the Steelers, and his big-play ability — something Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain don't possess — will keep the Steelers honest. The Ravens need to be balanced on offense to keep the heat off Joe Flacco and leave Pittsburgh with a huge win. (You hear that, Cam Cameron?)
3. Joe Flacco v. Troy Polamalu: The last time the Ravens quarterback saw the Steelers Pro Bowl safety was two seasons ago, when Polamalu returned a Flacco interception to the house in the AFC title game. "He always seems to be where the ball is," Flacco noted. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the challenge for Flacco is finding Polamalu, who missed 11 games in 2009, after the snap. "We'll probably be wrong plenty of times during the game," he said. That doesn't sound very encouraging. (Not-so-fun fact: Flacco and Harbaugh are 0-3 at Heinz Field.)
4. Defensive line in flux: Trevor Pryce's release and Cory Redding's concussion open the door for Brandon McKinney, Paul Kruger and Terrence Cody. At least one of them needs to step up against Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers' rejuvenated running game. So who's it going to be, guys?
5. Keeping their cool: The Ravens want to stay composed in this intense rivalry game, right? "Sometimes you've got to let your emotions fly," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "If it's early in the game, a good personal foul might be exactly what a team needs. If your coach kind of chop-sueys a ref, it might be what your team needs." Fair enough, but if the flags are flying late in the game, the Ravens will be in trouble.