The AFC North Champion Pittsburgh Steelers still have something to play for in week 17, but from the looks of it they will play it safe by sitting some of their key players in their matchup with the reeling Baltimore Ravens Sunday on the road. The Steelers, with a win and a loss from the Chargers, would move back to the #3 seed in the AFC, meaning they would avoid the Jaguars in next weekends first round playoff game. A loss or a win by the Chargers, and the Steelers would host Jacksonville in a first round game in a rematch of a game in Pittsburgh just three weeks ago as the Steelers lost 29-22.
In this game Sunday, left tackle Marvel Smith will for sure not play, and it looks as if QB Ben Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu will also not go in the contest. Roethlisberger has a gimpy ankle, and Polamalu continues to be less than 100 percent with a knee injury. If Sunday was the playoff game, both players would go, but for now, it appears they will give way to backup QB Charlie Batch and backup safety Tyrone Carter.
The Ravens on the other hand have mailed it in for 2007, and are in the midst of their worst season since moving to Baltimore. They have lost nine in a row, and after winning 13 games a season ago, it looks as if they will be lucky to win more than four this season, and very well could end the year with a 10-game losing streak. The streak included a loss to the winless Dolphins two weeks ago.
Baltimore will go with rookie Troy Smith at QB, as he will get his second straight start. Smith was not very good in a 27-6 loss last week to the Seahawks, though he did throw his first career TD pass to Derrick Mason in the defeat. Against the Steelers, it will be tough for hte former Ohio State star to do much of anything, as the Steelers can make life tough for rookie QB’s.
So look for a low scoring, drag it out affair between bitter rivals. The Steelers would love to be able to sit their stars and still walk out of Baltimore with a win to improve to 10-6 and then wait out the Chargers-Raiders game. If they don’t, they realize they have a bigger goal, and that is to avoid more injuries. Even with that, they should walk out of Baltimore with a win.