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By John J. Raspanti
Byron Leftwich will start at quarterback for the injured Ben Roethlisberger this Sunday as the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) try to extend their winning streak to five by defeating the Baltimore Ravens (7-2) at Heinz Field.
Roethlisberger injured his shoulder in the Steelers 16-13 overtime victory over Kansas City on Monday. The following day a report circulated that Roethlisberger also suffered a dislocated rib. Pittsburgh is 0-4 against the Ravens when Roethlisberger is on the sidelines. However, the Steelers are undefeated at home. Backup quarterback Leftwich will be making his first start since 2009.
"I try and prepare as if I am the starter every week," said Leftwich. "Nothing will change. I wish Ben the best. I hope he is healthy. Other than that I will be ready to."
Leftwich completed 7 of 14 passes for 73 yards in the second half of the Steelers victory Monday night. After the game, he admitted that rust was a factor in some of his less then impressive passes. Coach Mike Tomlin is not concerned.
"I'll trust his assessment if that's his assessment," Tomlin said. "We got a lot of ball in front of this week. If he is the guy, he'll get a great opportunity to prepare and we'll expect him to play winning football."
The struggling Raven defense could make it easier for Leftwich to settle in. Baltimore ranks near the bottom of the league in yards allowed (390). The unit has been giving up an average of 258 yards through the air.
The Steelers need running backs Isaac Redmond and Jonathon Dwyer to run the ball better then their combined 77 yards last weekend. Pittsburgh's defense leads the NFL, allowing only 265 yards per game. Safety Troy Polamalu has been ruled out of the Raven game with a lingering calf injury.
The Ravens demolished the Raiders last weekend 55-20. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 341 yards and three scores. Flacco has completed 60 percent of his passes this season.
"I think confidence is borne of success," coach John Harbaugh said. "When you do things well, it's a positive thing."
Baltimore running back Ray Rice has gained 657 yards on the ground this season. To win, the Ravens need Rice to consistently move the chains.
The Ravens have won 11 straight AFC North games. Their lone loss was to the Steelers in 2010. Baltimore completed a season sweep last year with an exciting 23-20 victory.
These two hook up again in a couple of weeks, so the loser will get a quick shot at revenge. As for this game, it lost a little of it's luster when Big Ben went down. Rather than looking at a side here, we're going to play the total. This total opened at 46 and has moved down to 40, in part because of the Roethlisberger injury, but also due to the defensive reputation of these two teams. This can be seen by looking at the betting trends at sportsbook.ag that show us that 85% of the action on the total is on the Under.
We're going to buck the public and grab the value with the over. Neither of these teams is as good defensively as in years past. Both are giving up on average 20+ points per game and both have been burned for big time points against good teams at times this year. Even without Big Ben, we think this one has the potential to be a much higher scoring game than people think. Over 40
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