The Ravens know that to contain the Steelers’ offense, they’ll need to get steady pressure on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. They likely won’t have outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith to help with those efforts Sunday.
Smith, who has 1 ½ sacks in 11 games and has played just over 48 percent of the Ravens’ defensive snaps this seasons, was listed on the final injury report as doubtful for Sunday’s game after he didn’t practice all week. Smith is dealing with a shoulder injury.
With the third-year player sidelined, the Ravens figure to depend more on rookie outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams behind starters Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon.
“We have confidence in all those guys – every one of those guys. We have five really good outside linebackers. I think they’re all top-level guys. It’s a deep position for us,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday. “Whoever is out there, we expect them to play at a really high level – and they’re going to have to. Holding the edge on this run game and getting to Ben is going to be really important. Whoever is out there is just going to do a job of playing our defense really well, play hard, get to the football, tackle well, and that’s what we expect from all those guys.”
Offensive line prepping: It’s a small sample size, but Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been sacked only once in his past two starts, and he threw for a season-high 269 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 44-20 demolition of the Detroit Lions.
Some of the credit can go to an offensive line that appears to be gelling at the right time thanks to a formation of left tackle Ronnie Stanley, left guard James Hurst, center Ryan Jensen, right guard Matt Skura, and right tackle Austin Howard that has started four of the past five games. But that unit will face a Steelers pass rush that produced four sacks in a meeting on Oct. 1 that the Ravens lost, 26-9. The Steelers rank second in the league with 40 sacks.
“We don’t want to give up sacks,” Howard said. “We pride ourselves in opening holes for the running backs and keeping Joe clean. But I wouldn’t say that ups the pressure. Pressure is in every game and on every play anyway. That’s our job, and that’s what we’re supposed to do.”
End zone: Ravens wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (back) returned to practice Friday and was listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Harbaugh said he isn’t worried about Maclin missing the game. Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley (neck) and reserve offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor (shoulder) are also questionable. For the Steelers, linebackers Ryan Shazier (back) and Tyler Matakevich (shoulder) and cornerback Joe Haden (fibula) were declared out. … Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson was presented with the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award after Friday’s practice. “It is an honor,” Watson said. “I was a Payton fan growing up – watching him – and this award means a lot, because we have a lot of deserving people on the team. Every organization is dedicated to their community, but the Ravens have been one that for years have been dedicated and get players involved.”
Baltimore Sun staff writer Edward Lee contributed to this article