Chat transcript: Steelers at Ravens game preview

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Ron Fritz: Hello Pittsburgh! Special holiday shout-out to my relatives in Butler, even though they are Steelers fans.

Jerry Micco: Hello everyone. My colleague Ron Fritz is here and we'll begin the chat. Thanks for joining!

James_Pittsburgh: Ron, what are the keys to the Ravens winning the game?

Ron Fritz: Hey James. Getting to Big Ben and not turning the ball over.

Poll Question: Who ya got in tomorrow night's game?
The winner will be ...
Answer #1: Ravens (33%)
Answer #2: Steelers (58%) 
Answer #3: Tie, just to cover all the bases (9%)

James_Pittsburgh: Who makes the playoffs, the Steelers or Ravens or neither?

Ron Fritz: The winner of this game. That's how important it is.

Jerry Micco: The Steelers, if they can win this game, have a legit pathway to 9 wins. If they go 9-7 they should make the playoffs. But if the Ravens win, you'd have to think they'd get the same leg up.

Keith: The Steelers are changing their bird of choice this year from turkey to raven

Ron Fritz: Love that witty Pittsburgh humor Keith. That's the best you've got?

Jerry Micco: They'll have their work cut out for them. I think winning twice on the road in four days is a very tough order in the NFL.

James_Pittsburgh: Ron Fritz, is it true that you are really a Steelers fan deep at heart? How much Steelers memorabilia do you have in your home?

Ron Fritz: James, you couldn't be further from the truth. My parents are Steelers fans, but they would throw me out of the house for always rooting against the Steelers.

JamesinNYC: Ron how close to the ledge are fans in Baltimore, it is crowded in the old AFC north.

Ron Fritz: Pretty close to the ledge. For the last five seasons, it's been playoffs and last year a Super Bowl win. Being 5-6 doesn't cut it right now. Jerry, what's the mood like in Pittsburgh?

Jerry Micco: Many Steelers fans wanted Tomlin's head at 0-4 and 2-6. Now, that has piped down with 3 wins in a row. Last year's 8-8 was tough for fans because they are used to winning seasons and playoff runs. Then the start this year traumatized them. People here expect a lot from the Steelers, but Tomlin has never had a losing season here in 6 years. This could be his first.

James_Pittsburgh: Who has a better paper, Pittsburgh or Baltimore?

Jerry Micco: Yes.

Ron Fritz: I agree.

James_Pittsburgh: What is wrong with Ray Rice this year?

Ron Fritz: He was dealing with a hip injury early in the season and then the line has just been terrible. Rice can't find running room and neither can Bernard Pierce.

Fredo: Ron, how's the development been of the two kids picked to replace Reed & Ray Ray? The kid from Florida and the kid from Nevada, I think?

Ron Fritz: Matt Elam has had his moments, good and bad. Haven't seen any Ed Reed-like plays. Reed was a playmaker. Elam is a hitter. I believe you're talking about Arthur Brown from Kansas State and he's been OK. Dealing with injuries and has shown flashes. I really think both are going to be really good. But they are still rookies.

Jerry Micco: Ron, I think sometimes fans forget that. People here expected Jarvis Jones to be the second coming of Lawrence Taylor. But he has a couple sacks and for a while was pretty much benched. It takes time for rookies to make an impact on defense, especially in complicated defenses.

Keith: Any chance Suggs is injured for this game? In a game like this, he could be a deciding factor...

Ron Fritz: Keith, there was some talk about a foot injury, but nothing definitive. He didn't leave the last two games, and didn't appear to be injured. He's the difference maker, without question. Suggs and Dumervil have to bring it Thursday night. If the Ravens don't get to Big Ben, it's going to be a long night for them.

Jerry Micco: And if nothing else, Suggs is great pre and post-game. I do the visitor locker room for Steelers home games, and Suggs is one of my favorites.

James_Pittsburgh: The Steelers and Ravens have lost a lot of veterans Ed Reed, Jams Harrison, and Ray Lewis. Which team is likely to rebuild quicker Steelers or Ravens?

Ron Fritz: T-Sizzle sure can talk.

Jerry Micco: It'll depend on the draft. Both teams like to build that way and the Steelers have whiffed on a couple of classes. But they seem to be on a better track the past couple of years.

Ron Fritz: I think the Ravens can. I don't think they are that far off. The defense is good right now. The offensive line needs rebuilt. Plain and simple. They need another WR. They need a healthy TE, maybe it's Dennis Pitta, but he can be a free agent after the season.

Miguel in Omaha: Question for Ron: How big a topic has Flacco's criticism of the wildcat offense become in Baltimore and do you see it being a problem going down the road towards the end of the season?

Ron Fritz: It's been the talk this week, that's for sure. Harbaugh wouldn't address it today. Flacco criticized the team when Jim Zorn was let go as QB coach. He's not afraid to say what he feels. I don't think it's a big problem going forward.

Sonny: How much has Flacco missed Boldin?

Ron Fritz: Sonny, he's missed him a ton. Boldin made some of his bad throws look good. I don't think it would have been that noticable had Pitta not been injured.

Miguel in Omaha: Guys: Over/under for the Steelers rushing yards...40?

Ron Fritz: Over. But the Ravens could be under 40.

Jerry Micco: Oh, I'll take the over. The Ravens defense is good, but not what it once was. And the Steelers are running the ball better. Still not where they need to be, but slowly making progress.

Ron Fritz: Ravens will try to run the ball, but I'm not sure they can.

Miguel in Omaha: As much as everyone complains about line play in Pittsburgh, we often forget other teams have the same issues, even ones as good as the Ravens tend to be.

Ron Fritz: The Ravens line issues are immense. Losing Matt Birk to retirement may have hurt more than they realized.

Miguel in Omaha: Final Question before heading back to work: Not to beat a dead horse, but...will we see the wildcat with Taylor often tomorrow?

Ron Fritz: I think we will, but not 12 times last game. Maybe five times.

Jerry Micco: If you're having trouble running the ball, the wildcat is supposed to be a way to jumpstart the run. In some cases that works. In others, not so much.

Ron Fritz: It worked for 17 yards on Taylor's first carry and everything else was negative yards.

Miguel in Omaha: Sounds like desperation.

Ron Fritz: Trust me, they are desperately looking for ways to run the ball, Miguel.

Jerry Micco: It's sort of like the bubble screens the Steelers run. They are passes disguised as running plays. It's an attempt to get someone out in space so they can run. It pulls the defense up a bit, thus setting up downfield stuff.

Ron Fritz: You might see more screen passes to Ray Rice.

Jerry Micco: He was a Steelers killer for years. Has he just lost a step after 5 years or is he hurt, Ron?

Ron Fritz: The hip injury early in the year was real, he missed a game and it looks like he's just returning now to form.

Jerry Micco: Well it seems the questions have dried up, so Ron, how about a prediction and quick analysis? I'll follow.

Ron Fritz: Three of my reporters had it 20-17 Ravens. I think the Ravens will win, but it's going to be 24-17. The Ravens have to get to Big Ben and Flacco can't turn the ball over. It should be a smash-mouth game. Should be fun. Happy Thanksgiving everyone and thanks Jerry.

Jerry Micco: I like the Ravens 17-14. Low-scoring and defensive, just like it usually is. I think it's going to be tough for the Steelers to win 2 road games in 4 days. And Baltimore knows that losing this one at home and going 0-2 vs. the Steelers almost guarantees they are going to miss the postseason. Ron, thanks for joining in today. And thanks to all the folks who asked questions. Have a great Thanksgiving everybody!

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