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Ravens forced to survive without a fullback

Ravens Pro Bowl fullback Le'Ron McClain and veteran Jason McKie, signed this week after McClain injured an ankle against the Buccaneers, are inactive for Sunday night's game against the Steelers. Given the violent and prehistoric nature of the rivalry -- with a slew of low-scoring games being won in the trenches -- this is one game where the Ravens really need a fullback. So how will they survive?

Without a fullback, they will be forced to cut out a big chunk of their playbook, unless they plan on using 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back Jalen Parmele as a fullback. Not a good idea there.

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It's more likely the Ravens will try to spread things out with three-receiver sets. After all, they brought in Anquan Boldin, Donte' Stallworth and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to open things up. They can blow things wide open against the Steelers if they finally use Stallworth to stretch the field vertically.

Todd Heap could play even more snaps, and we'll see more of rookie tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. They can line up next to one of the offensive tackles, they can be flexed out wide and they could line up in the backfield in a fullback/H-back role. None can block like McClain, though.

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That's why it's going to be interesting to see how effective Ray Rice and Willis McGahee will be carrying the ball against the stout Steelers front seven. Rice was banged-up when these teams met in Week 4, but he gave the Steelers trouble in 2009. Of course, he did it with McClain barging into the Pittsburgh defense line and blowing up linebackers. Rice won't have his backfield buddies Sunday night.

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