Jerry Micco: Welcome to our special live Steelers-Ravens chat with Baltimore Sun Sports Editor Ron Fritz.
Ron Fritz: Ready to go. Hello Pittsburgh!
Andrew: Jerry, let's talk safeties...are we looking at Will Allen and Ryan Mundy for Sunday's prime time matchup?
Jerry Micco: That's possible, though Ryan Clark says he'll be ready to play. But 2 conucussions in 2 weeks? Anything's possible. If it's Allen and Mundy, that's not going to be good for the Steelers D.
Isaac: Ron Friitz: Wih Big Ben being out this Sunday and Leftwitch taking his spot, do you beleive that pittsburgh will stick more to the run than the pass? I dont think they want Bryon throwing a lot..
Ron Fritz: If the Steelers want to win, they need to run the ball. The Ravens have been very weak against the run.
The Chief: Hi Jerry, thanks for getting Ron to chay with us. Ron, hope you are having a good year. Any explanation why the Ravens have almost a 20 point differential home/away?
Ron Fritz: No Chief. There is no explanation. They are two different teams at home and on the road. I think if they could figure it out, they would.
AJ: What's the status of the Pitt RBs? Who is starting and who will play?
Jerry Micco: All the RBs are healthy and any and all of them should play. That could change as practice moves along this week, but for now, all are OK. I think if he's healthy, Mendenhall gets the start.
Spanky: When will the Ravens ever admit that they lost a game because they were outplayed and not blame the loss on the refs?
Ron Fritz: I guess when Steelers fans stop whining. Gonna be a long time.
Ron Fritz: Sorry, that one was too easy Spanky.
Jerry Micco: I always though blaming the loss on the officials was a time-honored tradition for all teams and fans.
Andrew: I know Tomlin gave the starting job to Leftwich for Sunday, but would you feel more comfortable with Batch starting ahead of Leftwich?
Jerry Micco: Only because I've seen Batch as a starter for this team and never seen Leftwich in that role. Also because Leftwich hasn't started a game since 2009 when he was with Tampa. Other than that, he should be fine.
John: What is Antonio Brown's status? Will he play?
Ron Fritz: I'd feel more comfortable with Tommy Maddox starting.
Jerry Micco: AB said he'd try to practice on Friday. We'll see after that. I'd say he's doubtful.
Bronco: Was Harbaugh's fake FG last week "classless"?
Ron Fritz: That really helps the Ravens. He kills the Ravens.
Jerry Micco: He likes to run fake FGs if my memory is correct.
Ron Fritz: Bronco, I thought Harbaugh's fake FG was classless. I said it right after the game on our Instant Analysis. Sure hope he doesn't need one against the Steelers because they've already seen it now.
The Chief: Ron, what has the impact of losing Ray Lewis for the year?
Ron Fritz: Chief, it was huge from a leadership standpoint. On the field, not so much. He was getting pushed back and he can't cover tight ends. But he brings so many intangibles to the game.
yinzer in va: Ron, Who, besides Pittsburgh, can beat the Ravens? The Steelers are going to need help to win the division. Five days ago, a Steeler sweep was possible. But now, with Ben out, I think the best Pittsburgh can do with Baltimore is a split.
Jerry Micco: And that would be at best...remember, the Steelers and Ravens meet 2 weeks from Sunday in Baltimore. Scheduling genius of the NFL.
Ron Fritz: Hey, Yinzer in Va., the Ravens have to go to San Diego after Steelers game. That's a tough trip even though the Chargers stink. The Ravens could lose to Giants and Broncos.
T22POST: Jerry why did Ben share the severity of his injury, Why divulge that information to the press?
Jerry Micco: Our Ed Bouchette already had reported a rib injury in Wednesday morning's paper, so we knew about it from sources. He just confirmed it. And besides, Ben likes to tell you what hurts. Does it all the time, usually after Super Bowls.
Cheesey: If Ben is officially OUT this week, why is Suggs wasting his time preparing for him and the mensa test?
Ron Fritz: I'm sure he is, but like Suggs, I'd like to see it to believe it. Ben has played with some big-time injuries before, or at least that's what he said.
T22POST: Jerry, do you believe Troy will ever be healthy again, this injury has been ongoing for two plus years now
Ron Fritz: Maybe he should changes shampoos. Didn't he start doing Head & Shoulders commercials about two years ago?
Jerry Micco: He's 30 or 31 and he's always played too big for his body. He is one of the greats, but the game has beaten him up very badly. That said, he'll play before the season is over, and the Steelers will welcome him back.
Jerry Micco: And there's Ron's theory, too.
Ray: Who is The X Factor in Baltimore's Offense if they are gonna pull this one out? Perhaps the Tight Ends could do more, i dont expect much out of the run game?
Jerry Micco: Rice generally kills the Steelers.
Ron Fritz: Ray, to me it's Torrey Smith. If he has a big game, the Ravens usually win.
Andrew: What should we take away from the almost upset against the Chiefs on Monday night...will a short week play a factor too?
Jerry Micco: Short week always plays into it. I think the Steelers looked past KC. I would too if I had my biggest rival on the biggest stage, which now, to me, is the Sunday night game.
Ron Fritz: Give the Chiefs some credit, the Ravens only beat them 9-6. I was surprised the Steelers had Monday night then Sunday night games back-to-back.
Jerry Micco: More NFL scheduling genius.
The Chief: Jerry/Ron, realistically what do you see the Steelers and Ravens records at the end of the season?
Ron Fritz: Without Ben, Steelers go 9-7. Ravens now go 11-5.
Jerry Micco: Depends on how long Ben is out. I think they can finish 10-6 if Ben can get back after the 2nd Baltimore game. If not, 9-7 is possible.
Jerry Micco: I think the Ravens are a 10-6 or 11-5 team.
Cheesey: Ron - do you honestly think the Ravens are a SB contender with that defense?
Ron Fritz: Cheesey, I do not think they are a Super Bowl contender. The Ravens just lost Jimmy Smith today to groin surgery. He needed to play, just to get better. They might win one playoff game, that's it. Only if it's at home.
Jerry Micco: In the AFC, they likely are.
Jeff: So will the Ravens load up to stop the run and dare Leftwich to beat them?
Jerry Micco: That's what I'd do.
Ron Fritz: Yep, but they've done it before and still been run on.
Jerry Micco: It's really strange to think a team can run on Baltimore's defense. Sort of like the Steelers, who have been run on more this year than in year's past.
tim: All the Ravens have to do to win is run Rice right. KC had a filed day doing this Monday night!
Ron Fritz: Tim, that's what you'd think, but the Ravens never do that. Cam Cameron loves to throw the ball. I hope they run just so the game goes faster, right Jerry? I hate night games.
Jerry Micco: And the Steelers play 5, which is the limit. Every. Year.
T22POST: Ron, do you think R Lewis will suit up next year? I don't question his drive, he's the best ever at his position, but how severe is that injury?
Ron Fritz: They hope he's back for playoffs, but I doubt it. Yes, I think he plays next year. He would not want to go out because of an injury.
Boss Hog: How long with CB Jimmy Smith be out after his groin surgery?
Ron Fritz: Boss Hog, nice name. They are saying four weeks. Depending out how the Ravens are doing, though, they won't rush him back.
George: Who is under more pressure to perform better, Joe Flacco ir Pittsburgh D
Ron Fritz: Flacco is always under pressure to perform on road. But I have to say Steelers D needs to come up huge if they are to win.
Jerry Micco: Has to be Steelers defense. It needs turnovers and it hasn't forced many this year. I think the offense will need short fields as much as they can get.
The Chief: Ron you saw the Houston Texans early in the season and they took it to the Ravens. Are the Texans the real deal?
Jerry Micco: I think they are. The only question I have is that they aren't really playoff tested.
Ron Fritz: Chief, they sure are. Even without Cushing.
T22POST: Jerry, Why don't we go with one feature back for the game, interchanging the guys has not worked at all, give one guy a bulk of the carries, it screws up the flow of the offense in my opinion....thoughts?
Jerry Micco: Tomlin likes the hot-hand thing, but i think if Mendenhall is healthy, you play him. Doesn't mean Dwyer or Redman can't get a few carries to change it up, or even Chris Rainey, but I think you will see one guy get the majority of the carries.
Boss Hog: Do you expect Reed to simply double team Wallace the entire game to prevent the long bomb?
Ron Fritz: I'm not sure Reed is fast enough these days to keep up with Wallace. It will be interesting to see how Ravens defend him.
Jerry Micco: I've never seen Wallace overthrown on a deep pattern until Monday night when Leftwich did it. He threw the ball about 62 yards on that play. He's got a great arm.
Jeff: As a Ravens fan, who has a Steeler fan next door, we have interesting chats about football. He believes Ben's injury could be the start of a downward spiral for Pittsburgh. Says they are getting old. We've heard this all before, and the Steelers reload and come back. What do you guys think?
Jerry Micco: Ben's actually been pretty healthy in his career and missed very few games. I think the Steelers need to re-load in a couple of places, but otherwise, they seem to be fine. I think you'll see them grab a couple of LBs high in the spring draft.
Ron Fritz: The Ravens' defense has been getting old for five years now, yet they've been to playoffs each year and to AFC title game twice. I think both organizations have great front offices who will keep them in contention.
tim: Has anyone question the NFL geniuses as to why they have the best rivalry in the NFL playing 2 times in 3 weeks?
Ron Fritz: Tim, it's all about TV.
Jerry Micco: It's not very smart. This game could be a week 17 game as far as I'm concerned. Though neither team would like it especially if they'd clinched a playoff spot.
Jim in VT: How many times will we see Flacco's favorite play...drop back, hurl as far as possible toward Smith and hope for a great catch or pass interference?
Ron Fritz: Jim, maybe twice. He really tries to spread the ball around. You might see Jacoby Jones go long, too.
Jerry Micco: As many times as he thinks he can get Ike Taylor 1 on 1 deep. I think the Steelers will have the CBs some help this week for that very reason.
Sookie Sue: Ron - I think it may come down to Special Teams play. If it does, how have the Ravens been on ST this year?
Jerry Micco: Ron: Do you have 15 minutes? We can extend because we have more questions.
Ron Fritz: Sookie Sue, the Ravens have been outstanding on special teams all year. Every facet. Jacoby Jones was huge signing and he's taken to KO returns to the house. New kicker, Justin Tucker, has been great. Sam Koch, the punter, should be in Pro Bowl. This was the biggest area they corrected in offseason.
Ron Fritz: Yep. Let's keep going.
T22POST: Jerry and Ron...............Troy vs Ed Reed, who has had the better career?
Jerry Micco: Troy's got the rings and is a difference maker. That said, I've always said Ed Reed is one of the best safeties I've ever seen. Slight edge to Reed.
Ron Fritz: I'd say individually, Ed Reed. But Troy has two rings, right?
Jerry Micco: Correct.
Matt: If the ravens pull off the win on Sunday, will the media start to give Baltimore its props or will they sill the Ravens beat Pittsburgh minus Big Ben?
Ron Fritz: Hey Matt. I think everyone is still skeptical of the Ravens. The defense has just been horrible this season.
Andrew: now that the steelers and ravens are playing this week, can the league take a week off in handing out fines and let these two teams go at it in a typical steelers ravens rivalry game?
Jerry Micco: I hope so. This rivalry, to me, has become one the best in the NFL. And big-time physical play is part of it.
Ron Fritz: It will never happen Andrew. But don't think the Ravens and Steelers will stop trying to take each others heads off. This should be a hard-hitting game.
Jim in VT: Which member of the Harbaugh family is first to a title? Jim/John/Bro-in-law Tom Crean?
Jerry Micco: I think it's Jim. I like the 49ers this year.
Ron Fritz: Crean. He's loading up at Indiana.
T22POST: Jerry, Keenan Lewis has been a welcome surprise with Bill Gay leaving town (thank God), do we still have him locked up contract wise for a few years?
Jerry Micco: I think he's up after next season. And he's played very well the past few games. Been a pleasant surprise, though he did play well in spurts last season.
TBone: What ever happened to Anquan Boldin? He just doesn't seem to be the same player since the "broken face" incident.
Ron Fritz: Boldin has been fine. Cameron and Flacco love to spread the ball around. If there is a big catch needed to be made, though, Flacco is going to throw to Boldin.
T22POST: Jerry and Ron, do you both hate the Patriots as much as I do. I respect our rivalry with the Ravens and the hatred of the rivalry, that being said I believe the Pats are cheats with a classless coach. Thoughts?
Ron Fritz: No, having grown up in Cleveland, my hatred doesn't extend past about 100 miles east.
Jerry Micco: Belichick is not my favorite guy, but he's a hell of a coach. I don't horribly dislike the Pats because when the AFL was coming along, I loved them. But I'll never forgive them for taking Pat the Patriot off the helmet. Best helmet ever and they ruined it.
Jeff: Is Suggs back to good enough playing shape to be a force in the game? He's been relatively quiet the last two games.
Ron Fritz: Jeff, he's been quiet the last two games, but he loves the big stage. I don't think he has burst to make a big difference. But the Steelers will have to pay attention to him so maybe someone else comes up big.
Dennis: Any Chance You Guys Seeing Piit dropping next weeks game in Cleveland? if they lose this sunday, its almost a must win for Pitt next week at cleveland?
Ron Fritz: No way the Steelers lose to the Browns. Cleveland is just plain awful this year. I hate to admit that, by the way.
Jerry Micco: With a new QB, you really don't know what the offense is going to do, so yes, that possibility certainly exists for them to lose in Cleveland.
Chaz: Ron - If the birds win on Sunday, can you please remind them that the SB isn't until February?
Ron Fritz: So what you're saying Chaz is that the Ravens might celebrate too much over a regular-season win against the Steelers.
Ryphia: I was surprised at Suggs' nice complimentary comments re: Ben. Is he getting soft?
Jerry Micco: I think there's a lot of mutual respect between the players on these teams. They know they've been 2 of the NFL's best the last several years, and that they play a very tough brand of football.
Ron Fritz: Boy, after missing half a season he sure was soft around the mid-section. But I think Suggs has huge respect for Big Ben. He's tried to bring him down for years.
Jerry Micco: OK Ron, a lot of people want predictions for Sunday night. So let's end the chat with predictions. You first.
Ron Fritz: Ravens 23-17. New kicker is 3-for-3.
Jerry Micco: This is a total from the gut call: Steelers 17, Ravens 13. For some reason, the Steelers rise up knowing they need this one to keep it close in the AFC North. Lot of pride on that team, and they think Leftwich can get it done. Or at least not lose the game for them.
Ron Fritz: You could be right Jerry. I don't think the Steelers lay down. Should be a great game.
Jerry Micco: OK folks, that'll close out the chat. Ron, thanks for taking the time today. I always enjoy it, and I'll certainly be seeing you down the road. And thanks to all of our chat participants. You never disappoint with all your great questions. See you all on Sunday night for my chat live from Heinz Field. Take care everyone. See you soon, Ron.
Ron Fritz: Thanks Jerry.