With three-time Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice indefinitely suspended and his $35 million contract terminated, the Ravens' running game is officially in flux. Rice was scheduled to be reinstated from his original two-game suspension on Friday until a graphic video surfaced of him punching Janay Palmer. Now, the Ravens are left to pick up the pieces in their backfield against the Steelers following a shaky performance by new starter Bernard Pierce during a season-opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Pierce rushed for only 14 yards on six carries and was benched when he fumbled away the football on a tackle by Bengals Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The Ravens are expected to give Pierce a shot to redeem himself against the Steelers. The Ravens are also expected to have Pierce divide playing time with Justin Forsett. Forsett is a smaller back than Pierce at 5-feet-8, 197 pounds, but his elusiveness was on display against the Bengals when he salvaged the running game with 70 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and also caught five passes. Forsett is experienced in offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's zone-stretch system from their time together with the Houston Texans. The Steelers' run defense is vulnerable with nose tackle Steve McLendon only capable of occupying one gap. McLendon isn't reminiscent of massive former Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton. Steelers rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier is an outstanding athlete with 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash, but is still working on his technique at shedding blocks. He excels in space. Despite the Ravens' issues at running back, they should be able to run the football effectively against the Steelers. The Steelers allowed 183 rushing yards and two touchdowns to the Cleveland Browns during the first game of the regular season.
Kenneth K. Lam / MCT