Steelers-Ravens Preview

Disturbing new video evidence that surfaced earlier this week regarding Ray Rice’s domestic violence incident left the Baltimore Ravens little choice but to terminate the embattled running back’s contract immediately.

And though such an offensive finding further complicates an issue that has drawn criticism toward the franchise and the NFL as a whole, the short-term impact on the field doesn’t change for the Ravens, who already were prepared to play without Rice in Thursday night’s home matchup with the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

Rice was banned two games by commissioner Roger Goodell after a video showed Rice dragging his unconscious then-fiancee from a casino elevator after a domestic spat that drew charges from law enforcement, though they eventually were dropped.

But after a more complete video surfaced Monday that showed Rice punching his now-wife before pulling her out of the elevator, the Ravens released Rice. Goodell, who previously admitted the initial suspension was too lenient, followed by suspending Rice indefinitely.

”(The video) changed things, of course," said coach John Harbaugh, who had expressed his support for Rice since the initial reports of the incident were publicized. "It made things a little bit different.”

Though the Rice situation could be a distraction, nothing changes personnel-wise in regards to this contest. The Ravens still must figure out the direction of their running game after totaling just 23 yards on nine carries in the first half and falling behind 15-0 before the break Sunday against Cincinnati.

Bernard Pierce started but fumbled in the second quarter and didn’t play again. Justin Forsett took over and ran 11 times for 70 yards and a touchdown, but the Ravens gave up a late touchdown pass after briefly taking the lead and lost 23-16.

”The game is done. It’s shaken off. On to next week,” Pierce said.

Things may not go much better against the Steelers if Baltimore can’t get its offense going. Joe Flacco went 35 of 62 for 345 yards and an interception, with 80 of those yards coming on a TD to Steve Smith in the fourth quarter.

Though Flacco was shaky, his receivers dropped an NFL-high six passes in Week 1.

”We dropped all the gimmies, but we caught all the hard ones,” Smith said. "Things can happen and you’ve got to take responsibility. This receiver group has a lot of opportunities to be great, and I think we overthought things and ran before we had the ball. We’ve just got to play better.”

The Steelers know they have room for improvement as well, but they were able to hang on for a 30-27 victory over Cleveland on Sunday despite blowing a 24-point halftime lead.

”People probably didn’t like the way we came out with a `W,’ but we came out with a `W,’" cornerback Ike Taylor said. "So nobody has really nothing to talk about except for the small things, and we’ll correct them.”

Taylor, though, was part of a defense that allowed the Browns to score on four straight possessions in the second half. Pittsburgh then had to stop Cleveland twice late before Shaun Suisham kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired.

”We’re not going to let (Sunday) define us by any stretch,” coach Mike Tomlin said. ”We’re going to need a better result if we want to get a victory on Thursday night.”

Ben Roethlisberger had a career-best 278 yards in the first half and finished with 365, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown that preceded a 38-yard scoring run by Le’Veon Bell in the second quarter.

Bell finished with 109 yards rushing while catching six passes for 88 yards, and he’s looking forward to facing a Baltimore defense against which he totaled 166 yards and a touchdown on the ground as the clubs split a pair of meetings last season.

Those contests were decided by a total of five points. Nine of the last 10 regular-season games in this rivalry have been decided by three points or fewer.

"I can’t wait to get to Baltimore and see what these guys are really about," Bell said. "They are going to play tough. They know what we like to do, we know what they like to do. Both teams are similar. It’s going to be a good game."

Pittsburgh has lost four of the last six meetings with the Ravens in a rivalry that it sure to feature more physical play Thursday.

"Thursday Night Football, primetime, and at our rival’s home field. You don’t need any extra motivation," Steelers cornerback William Gay said. "It’s Baltimore versus Pittsburgh. The fans are excited for it. We are excited for it."

The Ravens have had a rough week due to the loss and escalation of the Rice situation, but linebacker Terrell Suggs said they can’t dwell on that with such an important matchup looming.

"It’s a short week, fortunately for us," Suggs said. "We get to look at (Sunday’s loss) real quick, throw it away and move on to our rivals."