Well, here we are. Just a day away from Ravens football. The NFL lockout officially ended on July 25, so NFL players had a shortened training camp to get ready for the season. The Ravens went out and traded for veteran receiver Lee Evans from Buffalo, and signed 5-time Pro Bowl C Andre Gurode. With Matt Birk already entrenched at center, both Gurode's and Birk's roles are yet to be seen. As for Evans, he is a great threat down the field, and will likely be running one main route this year for Flacco. Run straight, look up, catch ball. The Ravens also signed FB Vonta Leach, a physical blocker who will help find holes for Ray Rice to run. As far as cuts went, the one surprise was the release of LB Tavares Gooden, whose injuries helped run him out of Baltimore. The Ravens had a strong pre-season, finishing 3-1 after losing the first game to the Eagles. There were no major injuries, but RB Matt Lawrence and OL Ramon Harewood have already been placed on injured reserve, and will be out for the year.
On Sunday, the Ravens will welcome the hated Pittsburgh Steelers to M&T Bank Stadium to renew the fiercest rivalry in the NFL. After an upsetting loss to the Steelers in the postseason, the Ravens will be looking for a little revenge to open the year. No matter what, until the Ravens win a real important game against Pittsburgh, the Steelers will always have the edge, and the Ravens know that. What has been hurting the Ravens the most against Pittsburgh is the lack of a big playmaker on offense, while the Steelers lead with Big Ben, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace. With the acquisitions of Lee Evans and Torrey Smith, the Ravens will finally have the opportunity to counterattack. Some might say that because this is the first week of the season, the game isn't as important, but I beg to differ. While it is disappointing that the teams won't have a late-season matchup, I think it is even more important that they're playing here in Week 1. A Ravens win sets the tone for the entire season, and is a huge confidence boost for the players going on. A loss could hurt the Ravens' confidence as the year goes on. In yet another close game, I have Joe Flacco finally getting the monkey off his back, as the Ravens will win 16-10.
Key to the Game: The key to this game will be pass-rushing, as both defenses have premier defenders putting pressure on the quarterback. We've seen these games come down to a sack-fumble or interception, so the team that forces that turnover has a good chance of winning the game.
Key Matchups for Ravens vs. Steelers
Ravens LB Terrell Suggs vs. Steelers offensive line Edge: Suggs
Ravens CB Jimmy Smith vs. Steelers WR Mike Wallace Edge: Wallace
Ravens offensive line vs. Steelers LB James Harrison Edge: Harrison
Ravens WR Lee Evans vs. Steelers CB Ike Taylor Edge: Evans
WR David Reed-Suspended*-OUT
LB Jason Phillips-Concussion-QST
G Ben Grubbs-Thigh-PRB
*Reed was suspended one game by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
LB Chris Carter-Hamstring-OUT
WR Jerricho Cotchery-Hamstring-DBT
T Marcus Gilbert-Concussion-PRB
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!