Jerry Micco: Hi everyone and welcome to our special Ravens-Steelers chat, which is co-hosted by Baltimore Sun Sports Editor Ron Fritz and yours truly. I'll be back at 1 when we have the official launch, and Ron and I will be happy to take any and all questions. Thanks for joining us!
Jerry Micco: Ron, let me know if you're here and we'll roll. Thanks.
Ron Fritz: Ready to go Jerry.
Isaac: Ron: In what way would you suggest that we can beat the steelers? i know they know us so much, but perhaps we spread the pittsburgh D? i mean we have to be creative a little? i say lets get the tight ends in more
Ron Fritz: Isaac, the Ravens need to run the ball and don't turn it over. Let the defense do the rest.
Jerry Micco: That's what the Steelers said they needed to do in Cleveland last week. Didn't quite work out the way they wanted....
Ron Fritz: Did every member of the backfield fumble against the Browns?
Jerry Micco: Indeed they did. Except Batch. He was picked 3 times just not to be left out.
Gary: For the Steelers, don't you just try to come out of this as healthy as possible. I mean, forget the division and if you win the last four games after the Ravens, you make the playoffs and anything can happen
Ron Fritz: Gary, I just looked at the Steelers' schedule and you're right. Very winnable games the last four, depending on Big Ben's health.
Jerry Micco: The Steelers want to keep Batch upright and in one piece and hope no more OL personnel are injured. Terribly banged up, but you still gotta play. This is similar to their SB XL run. Ran off the last 4 games, 3 at home, against underdogs.
JamesinNYC: Ron who scares you this week on offense for the Steelers...assuming Ben doesn't play?
Ron Fritz: If Dwyer can hold on to the ball, he can do some damage. The Miller and Wallace can get involved. Any hot running back would scare me.
Bryd: Is this game so important that the Steelers would use Ben if they're losing and he's not at 100%.
Jerry Micco: Absolutely not. I'd be stunned if Ben was even activated for the game.
Ron Fritz: I'd say it's a longshot he's active.
Chooch: After the Ravens win their Superbowl this week, what time will the parade begin?
Jerry Micco: Steelers fans will never forget the 35-7 celebration from last year's opening week. I don't think.
Ron Fritz: Chooch, still four games left, and the Ravens are going to want home-field throughout the playoffs. They still have Redskins, Giants, Broncos and Bengals after they beat the Steelers.
Pat: Good afternoon gentlemen. Do you see the shuffling of the O-line having any berring on this game?
Jerry Micco: Going to be tough for the Steelers offense to get in a rhythm. I'm surprised at all the changes. Seemed on Tuesday that Tomlin was happy to put Beachum at RT and leave everything else alone. But then he's practicing yesterday with 4 of the 5 slots being changed.
Ron Fritz: Who's O-line? I'm assuming the Steelers, but the Ravens have started three different guys at left guard this season. If the Ravens can get to Batch, it's a huge impact on the game.
Dennis: Any chance the ravens put up a lot of points? i mean they are absoutely amazing at home, or do you expect it to be as tight as it was the last time they played?
Jerry Micco: I think the Ravens will be a better team than we saw at Heinz Field two weeks ago. Be surprised if they didn't score at least 21.
Ron Fritz: Dennis, it depends on if the Steelers hang on to the ball. If they can take some time off the clock and keep it out of Flacco's hands, it can be low-scoring. Ravens will be happy if they hit 21 or 24.
Raymond: Gosh i want to say big ben will play this week, but i really just cant see him going out their, he has proven in the past what he can do, but this type of injury, i just dont see him under center on sunday?
Jerry Micco: He spoke with media just a bit ago and said he still has pain and his arm strength isn't 100 percent. I think he's going to be watching on Sunday. Brian Hoyer will be the backup for Batch.
Ron Fritz: I don't see it happening with four winnable games left. But Big Ben has proved me wrong before.
Spanky: Rice's 4th down run last week - play of the year or just the Chargers being the Chargers?
Jerry Micco: A bit of both. Rice is capable of making big plays, Ron has seen that more than I have, but the Chargers, well...they're the Chargers.
Ron Fritz: Yes. Play of the year and the Chargers being the Chargers. Just one guy had to tackle him. They were running into each other. That being said, Rice knew what he had to do and did it.
JamesinNYC: Colon makes it back for this game or no? I think it is better to just add the one rookie and leave it alone otherwise.
Jerry Micco: Colon did not practice yesterday and we've not heard yet whether he will today or not. I think after last week's debacle, they don't feel legursky can play guard as well as center. That's why Pouncey is moving. Actually, Pouncey thought he was being drafted to play guard but never played it here. Last time was freshman season at Florida
Matt: Batch or Big Ben? who seroiously do you guys thinks lines up? Any Gut Feelings?
Jerry Micco: I'd bet Ron a nice Italian dinner at our conference next summer in Detroit that Batch starts.
Ron Fritz: Matt, I think it's Batch. No way do the Steelers risk Ben. No way I'm taking that bet, though I'd be happy to buy you dinner Jerry.
JamesinNYC: How bad was the spot on Rice's run?
Jerry Micco: I'll leave that to Ron
Ron Fritz: Spot on -- if you're in Baltimore.
TFizz: Despite the end result, wasn't checkdown Joe's 4th down pass last week just admiting defeat?
Jerry Micco: Funny, Batch's nickname on the Steelers is "Checkdown Charlie."
Ron Fritz: Even Flacco said this week he would have looked pretty stupid if Rice didn't make it.
Pat K: What will the Steelers do to try and help Batch get into better situations from a coaching standpoint?
Ron Fritz: The Ravens pursue like crazy so I'd run a ton of screens.
Jerry Micco: All you can do is ask him to manage the game. They cannot have turnovers and they need a couple of short fields. It's asking a lot, but coaching wise, not much more you can do. Guy's been in the league for 16 years.
doyle37: Definitely looking through Steeler colored glasses but on Rice's play last week...looked to me like the ball was behind the tackler's foot ( which was one foot over the 35 ) when his knee hit and wasn't that a block in the back ??? I only mention this because everyone ( TV media ) was gushing over the play ( and the poor officiating ) and didn't point this out.
Jerry Micco: I hadn't paid that much attention to it, just noting it was a terrific run by Rice. So I can't comment.
Ron Fritz: It's really hard to say. I looked at every replay and when his knee went down, the ball was at the first-down marker. The block wasn't in the back, but thought it could have been flagged for being defenseless.
les hayes: isnt it a shame how players today (steelers running backs) cant hold on to the ball?
Jerry Micco: Some of it is weak technique. Some of it is more aggressive tackling and going after the ball.
Ron Fritz: It is Les. Nobody carried the ball tightly against their body. They are always swinging it.
Green Turtle: Chances that Lewis will play again this regular season? Post season?
Ron Fritz: Green Turtle, we should hear in a little bit if he practices today. I do think he can play in regular season, he's eligible to play against Broncos on Dec. 16. More than two weeks before playoffs.
Susan: What is your take on the seemingly increased number of major injuries this year? Not just for both the Ravens and Steelers but across the league. There's always injuries, especially this time of year, but seems like more this year.
Jerry Micco: Bigger, faster, stronger...and you wonder if the equipment, as well as the human body, can keep up with all of it.
Ron Fritz: Susan, I haven't noticed a huge increase, although the Ravens might argue with you because they've been hit hard on defense. On offense, though, they've been pretty healthy.
Jimmy: Were the Ravens ever really serious about not signing Rice during the offseason this year??? He turns nothing into something better than any back in the league - agree???
Jerry Micco: Adrian Peterson is pretty good at that, too.
Ron Fritz: No, they were going to get it done with Ray. On top of being a Pro Bowl back, he's incredible in the community, always giving back. He's one of the top 3-5 in the league year in, year out.
Pounder: Who starts for the Steelers O line from L to R this week?
Ron Fritz: This one is all yours Jerry. Not sure I can name two Steelers' o-line men.
Jerry Micco: Starks, Pouncey, Legursky, DeCastro, Foster. That should be interesting, though I'm curious to see DeCastro play. He's supposedly the next Alan Faneca. No burden there.
Charles: Any chance Baltimore gets the No.1 seed, their are some potentia games the texans could lose in a few weeks, e.g..Indy, New England come to mind, i mean this texan team has shown some big time flaws that we hadnt seen earlier in the year, i think they somehow slip and baltimore takes the No.1 seed? Thoughts?
Ron Fritz: Charles, they would have to lose two games because they hold tiebreaker over Ravens. That's possible, but the Ravens have Redskins, Broncos, Giants and Bengals. There's a loss in there somewhere.
drobinson: Do you feel that the friendliness of today's nfl has taken away from the rivalry? Seems like its all a show nowadays... or maybe its just that the Steelers are less physical than in the past due to fines by Mr. God-dell!
Jerry Micco: I don't know, when these 2 teams play, there's respect but not necessarily friendship. And they go after each other. Hard, every play.
Ron Fritz: I don't think so. No Hines Ward to rile the Ravens up, but they'll admit that they circle the two dates against the Steelers on the calendar.
JayJ: Does Troy finally make it back on the field this week?
Jerry Micco: He practices a full practice yesterday for the first time since Oct. 5. Looks like he'll play, but there are a couple more practice days to go.
Crab Cake: What must the Raven's do better this week to score more points than the first Steeler game?
Ron Fritz: Score TDs in the red zone instead of field goals.
Chris: With Roethlisberger's increased tendency towards mid-season injuries, do you think it's time for them to start looking towards a next QB while he can still play?
Jerry Micco: I'll be curious as to what they do with Hoyer. He's a 3rd-year guy and has a nice upside. But there's no reason to bring in a hot-shot backup or draft a QB high. Ben's got several years yet. Injuries or not.
Ron Fritz: I think the Steelers need to groom a quarterback who's younger than Moses (not sure if Batch is) and moves better than Moses (we know Leftwich doesn't).
Jerry Micco: Except on that 31-yard TD run vs. the Ravens 2 weeks ago. I think after that, the Steelers were so stunned they were awful on offense the rest of the game.
Ron Fritz: The Ravens were stunned, too.
Mike: If both teams are healthy who makes the better playoff run?
Ron Fritz: Ravens. Defense is really starting to click, even without Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb. Offense should be able to score with anybody.
Jerry Micco: Ravens will have home field, but I'll say this: there's something to a last-season surge. IF the Steelers win all 4 in December, or even 3 of 4 and slip into the playoffs, they are going to be tough. Seems when team have to keep playing playoff-type games, they have good momentum going into the playoffs.
Jerry Micco: I meant to say "late-season surge."
doyle37: What do you guys think of NFL replay. I don't like the challenge stuff. If replay is supposed to right a wrong then get them all. College system seems better.
Jerry Micco: I'd leave it as is. It cost the Steelers a legit chance to tie or win the Browns game last week, but that's the chance you take.
Ron Fritz: I do like the college system better.
Chad in Carlisle: Do you see anyway that the Steelers score more than 3 touchdowns against the Ravens? If that happens I feel that the Steelers D can stop the Ravens Offense....do you agree?
Ron Fritz: I think the only way the Steelers score more than three TDs is if the Ravens are putting the ball on the ground or Flacco throws a pick-6.
Jerry Micco: Not unless the defense gets at least one, and sets the Steelers up for a very short field. I think it'll be tough for the Steelers offense to get a lot of points.
Guest: Steeler fan - we can't say too much on here because Ron might run and tell Harbaugh. lol. Ron, what weaknesses you see in the Ravens?
Jerry Micco: I know Tomlin doesn't do much when I give him my weekly reports. Perhaps Ron has more luck with Harbaugh?
Ron Fritz: Both lines. They can't stop the run and Flacco was sacked five or six times last week. Harbaugh doesn't pay much attention to me.
BMoreRavensFan: Is Roethlisberger expected to play on Sunday, if not, who's expected to play as QB if Roethlisberger is still listed as out?
Jerry Micco: Batch will start, and Brian Hoyer will be the backup. Leftwich is still hurt, too.
Ron Fritz: He's not expected to play and Batch will be the starter.
Java: Given Flacco's performance this year, what do you realistically expect to happen with his contract this offseason?
Ron Fritz: They'll get it done. Just like they got Rice's done. Look around the league, there aren't that many good QBs. Flacco is good.
Pablo: Ron, you said the Ravens offense should be able to score with anybody. The offense of the last 2 weeks sure couldn't keep up with the Pat, Texans or Broncos.
Eddie: Has anyone seen DeCastro practice, is he close to game speed???
Ron Fritz: Pablo, I was careful to say "should." You're right, they stunk the last two weeks. But Flacco definitely has enough weapons to put up points. The Texans game you can throw out because Lewis/Webb were hurt the week before and the whole team was down. The Ravens beat the Patriots already this season, 31-30. So yeah, they should score with anybody.
Jerry Micco: @Eddie: Our Ed Bouchette said he ran with the first team on Wednesday. That means he's a full speed.
DelawareSteel: Lots of shuffling on the Steelers O-line. Sign of panic?
Jerry Micco: Sign of the times. A lot of guys hurt.
Pablo: Is there any explaining the bizarre splits in Flacco's home vs. road numbers? He quite literally looks like a different player away from Baltimore.
Ron Fritz: Pablo, if I knew I bet John Harbaugh would listen to me. It doesn't look like they do anything differently on the road offensively, so nobody knows what's going on.
Chris in Cali: I predict Batch plays much more efficient this week with AB back,and with all the TO last week,gotta believe guys are gonna on their game a pumped up this week,gotta real good feeling about this week,i say we snap Baltimores home winning streak,(after all we were that last team to win in Balt.
Jerry Micco: Ron I'm going to close up because I have a 2 p.m. meeting, but we can use this question for predictions. Go ahead.
Ron Fritz: Chris in Cali, hope it's warmer there than the upper 20s it was here this morning. No chance the Ravens lose at home w/o Big Ben playing. Ravens 24-10.
Jerry Micco: I like the Ravens, 21-13. Steelers defense will keep it close.
Ron Fritz: It's been a blast Jerry, as always. Hope yinz have a wonderful holiday season. Thanks.
Jerry Micco: Thanks for taking the time to chat with Ron and me this week. Sorry we couldn't get in even more questions. Ron, thanks for doing this with me, always a pleasure. Enjoy the game everybody!