The Baltimore Ravens expect to see Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back in the lineup when they meet for first place in the AFC North on Sunday (1 p.m., ET).
In fact, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs plans to welcome Roethlisberger back to the field.
“Don't fall for that. I saw this movie before,” Suggs said about the possibility of Roethlisberger being ruled inactive. “He's going to act like, 'I'm not playing. I don't know. I did individual today and threw a little bit. I still don't know.' Then, he's going to walk … on out there. I'm going to be like, 'How you doin', Benjamin.'”
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Roethlisberger returned to practice this week after undergoing surgery to repair a torn left meniscus on Oct. 17. Whether he plays or not, the Ravens are determined to seize the opportunity in front of them.
“We're seven games in, we're one game out of first in the division, and we're playing the team that's first in the division, which is our archrival,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “What more could you ask for than that?”
Pittsburgh is 1-6 against Baltimore without Roethlisberger, and 9-8 when he plays. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Roethlisberger could still be active for the game even if he doesn't start.
“I thought it was generally positive,” Tomlin said about Roethlisberger's performance at practice this week. “We hadn't spent a lot of time analyzing it. It's just been giving him the work and him taking the work and he's done a really good job with it.”
If Roethlisberger is not fully ready, backup Landry Jones will make his second consecutive start. Jones went 29 of 47 for 281 yards with a touchdown and interception against the New England Patriots in Week 7.
“The offense doesn't change that much if Landry Jones is in there,” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, they're different players. Ben is Ben, and we respect him tremendously. We'll operate under that assumption.”
Roethlisberger is still experiencing some pain because of the surgery. Nonetheless, he said dealing with any type of injury is common at this point of the season. Roethlisberger will likely be a game-time decision as far as being named the starter.
“I had surgery two weeks ago,” Roethlisberger said. “Listen, anybody in this locker room that isn't feeling pain hasn't been on the football field yet. Everyone is feeling pain right now.”
Roethlisberger is having a solid season and has thrown for 1,685 yards, He is tied for fifth in the NFL with 16 touchdowns passes and has just six interceptions. Roethlisberger has been sacked 11 times, and will likely face relentless pressure by the Ravens if he is able to play.
Both the Steelers (4-3) and Ravens (3-4) are coming off bye weeks. That extra time off was especially valuable to Baltimore, which hopes to have most of its key players back in the lineup.
While Harbaugh declined to get into specifics about injuries, left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot), and former Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) are expected to return. Baltimore has struggled behind a makeshift offensive line without those two key players out of the lineup.
The Ravens are also hopeful a healthy team will help snap the current four-game losing streak — the longest slide in Harbaugh's nine years as the head coach.
The Steelers could get a huge boost to their playoff aspirations with a victory. Pittsburgh could also get several injured players back, including defensive end Cameron Heyward (hamstring), running back DeAngelo Williams (knee) and right tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle).
Both Baltimore and Pittsburgh have been helped by a struggling AFC North this season. The teams in that division have combined for just 10 wins — the lowest mark in the NFL.
Nonetheless, the Steelers and Ravens are in the best position to take advantage of the situation. The winner of Sunday's game will be in the driver's seat.
Even though Baltimore and Pittsburgh have struggles, it remains one of the best rivalries in the NFL.
“It's going to be exciting ball,” Tomlin said. “Control of the AFC North is at stake. We respect their place. We are doing it at their place. It's a hostile environment. They are well coached and have good players.”