Up until now, the national media have been generally in agreement on virtually every Ravens game. Almost all thought they would win most; almost all thought they would lose at Houston. But they can't seem to agree on this matchup of Lewis-less Baltimore vs. Big Ben-less Pittsburgh.
Here is how some of the national media see the game:
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Steelers 17, Ravens 13
"The Steelers have played the Ravens close without Ben Roethlisberger. And that’s when the Ravens actually had a great defense. If the Steelers can run the ball effectively and if Byron Leftwich can start his elongated throwing motion quickly enough to get the ball out before Terrell Suggs plants him into the ground, the Steelers can hold serve at home."
Elliott Harrison, NFL.com: Ravens 24, Steelers 20
"You're going to hear about "the best rivalry in football" so much this weekend that you'll want to puke. You'll hear about it more than you were inundated with "Jerome Bettis is from Detroit!" during the week of Super Bowl XL. ... More than you hear " 'Tango & Cash' was on Spike last night!" ... More than you hear "You know, Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft pick."
Well, it's tough to win when the Baltimore Ravens are coming to town and former first-round draft pick Byron Leftwich is your quarterback. Baltimore's defense has struggled at times, but how much can the Pittsburgh Steelers threaten with Leftwich, a running back-by-committee and a banged-up Antonio Brown? Am I seeing this wrong?"
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Ravens 23, Steelers 20
"Injuries have knocked some familiar names out of this physically brutal feud. Big Ben's toughness and improvisational skills will be missed by Pittsburgh, while Baltimore will miss Ray Lewis in an emotional, tight contest. The Steelers' best chance with Byron Leftwich is to pound their backs at the Lewis-less Ravens, who can now get worn down by the running game. ...
The Ravens will commit to stopping the run on early downs so they can put the athletically challenged Leftwich in uncomfortable third downs against their edge pass rush. Offense plays a vital role in that plan, too. The Ravens will need more fearless, efficient play from Joe Flacco early and a few big plays from Ray Rice and Torrey Smith. It will be tough, but Rice's quickness and Smith's speed are key assets to stretch the Steelers.
As usual, there will be a lot of hard hitting but not a lot of scoring ... But for the second straight season, Flacco will respond on the road against Pittsburgh. "
Peter King, SI.com: Ravens 27, Steelers 16
"It's Byron Leftwich for the Steelers Sunday night. Byron Sandwich, if Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger get their way. NBC in mourning over the Big Ben boo-boo. Song heard on Sunday Night Football poohbahs' iPods: While Fred Gaudelli's Guitar Gently Weeps."
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: Steelers 28, Ravens 23
"This is a huge game in the AFC. The winner will be in first place in the AFC North. This used to be a physical war, but it's now more about each team's passing game. One problem: The Steelers might not have Ben Roethlisberger. Can Byron Leftwich keep up if it's a shootout? I think he can. The Steelers find a way -- even without Roethlisberger."
Peter Schrager, FoxSports.com: Steelers 20, Ravens 16
"The big stat that ESPN and the NFL Network have been floating around this week is that Pittsburgh is 9-5 against the Ravens with Ben Roethlisberger under center and 0-4 without him since 2004. Numbers never lie, but sometimes they tend to exaggerate things. Consider this: In those four losses to the Ravens without Big Ben, the Steelers lost by 3, 6, 3 and 3 points. Not exactly blowout city. The Ravens are a different team at home and on the road this year. They’re 2-2 in games played outside of Baltimore, and in those two wins, they were incredibly fortunate to beat bad Chiefs and Browns teams. I know Ben’s questionable “with a shoulder” (I always love that), but I’m still taking Pittsburgh. Ravens fans, I ask you to save your emails until after the game, please."
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Ravens 17, Steelers 13
"Ben Roethlisberger’s injury came at the worst possible time for the Steelers. Before Big Ben got hurt, I was expecting the Steelers to beat the Ravens both this week in Pittsburgh and two weeks from now in Baltimore, and to take the lead in the AFC North. But with Byron Leftwich in for Roethlisberger, I like the Ravens."