Ravens-Steelers Preview: Brutal AFC North Battle Not for the Faint of Heart

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IOctober 1, 2010

DENVER - AUGUST 29:  Linebacker James Harrison #92 and defensive end Brett Keisel #99 of the Pittsburgh Steelers lead the defense against the Denver Broncos during preseason NFL action at INVESCO Field at Mile High on August 29, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Steelers 34-17.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-3)

The undefeated Steelers may be the hottest team in the NFL, winning their three games by an average margin of 11 points, even with a quarterback situation that has been steeped in uncertainty due to injuries and the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger.

Should Pittsburgh overcome the Ravens, Roethlisberger would inherit a 4-0 team when the Steelers host the Browns in Week 6 after a bye week.

"I won't guarantee, promise, or certify Ben's job when he returns," Mike Tomlin said, "to anyone other than Ben himself. But the job is Ben's if he wants it. And as we all know, when Ben wants something, he takes it.

"Frankly, I find it hard to believe people found it difficult to believe this team could function so well without Roethlisberger. I had no doubt our defense would get us through. They've got more meaningful 'carries' than the Broncos' rushing crew."

With Ray Rice likely limited with a knee contusion, the Ravens will have to attack the Steelers through the air.

Their prized free agent acquisition, Anquan Boldin, paid huge dividends in last week's 24-17 win over the Browns with three touchdown catches.

"Boldin's a beast," said John Harbaugh, "and should remain one until he tweaks his hamstring in Week 8. For now, though, he's Joe Flacco's go-to guy. After a shaky first two weeks, Flacco had a solid game last week. That was probably the result of the confluence of having something to prove and having something to improve."

The intensity is always extreme for Ravens-Steelers game, but it reaches a crescendo when, early in the game on a screen pass, Hines Ward blindsides Ed Reed, in street clothes and on the sideline.

The Ravens retaliate the best they know how, with a Billy Cundiff field goal.

The Steelers rebound and force three Flacco turnovers, including two red zone interceptions.

Pittsburgh wins, 18-9.