Pittsburgh (1-0) at Baltimore (0-1), 8:25 p.m. (CBS and NFL Network, M&T Bank Stadium). Following an exciting opening weekend, Week 2 begins on Thursday night on CBS/NFLN at 8:25 p.m. Eastern as Pittsburgh takes on Baltimore. A pair of AFC North rivals with Super Bowl histories meet in Charm City Thursday night and controversy brews before the kickoff.

The matchup marks the first of seven early-season Thursday Night Football broadcasts aired on CBS and simulcast on NFL Network.

When the Steelers travel to Baltimore this week, Roethlisberger looks to extend his recent success on Thursdays. Since 2009, Roethlisberger ranks first in the league with 1,784 passing yards on Thursdays. Steelers tight end Heath Miller has been a reliable target for Roethlisberger on Thursdays, tallying the most receptions (34) and the seventh-most receiving yards (360) in the NFL over the past five seasons on Thursdays. “We can’t apologize for the way we win,” says Roethlisberger. “We just have to win games.”

“It’s great to start this season off 1-0 and particularly 1-0 in the AFC North,” says head coack Mike Tomlin. “We have a short week as we push on to Baltimore. We’re going to work hard in preparation for Thursday.”   

The Steelers and Ravens enter the Thursday night contest from opposite directions in their season openers last weekend. Pittsburgh led at the half at Heinz Field 27-3 and then held off a late Cleveland rally as the Browns would score 24 unanswered points in the second half before Sean Suisham connected on a 41-yard field goal as time expired. The Steelers were outrushed by Cleveland 183-127, with Browns RB Terrance West rushing for 100 yards on 16 carries. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was sacked four times and threw an interception to go with a TD in the contest. Pittsburgh was 4 of 12 on third down tries (1 of 1 on fourth) and kept the ball for 32:27, while the Browns were 2 of 11 on third down, keeping the ball for 27:33.

The Ravens come into the contest with distracitons in their locker room. First, they trailed Cincinnati 16-0 at the break and then outscored the Bengals 16-8 in the last 30 minutes of action but the rally fell short as they would fall 23-16. Neither team managed to rush over 100 yards in the contest (Baltimore with 91, Cincinnati with 79) and the Ravens turned the ball over twice in the contest. Andy Dalton (301) and Joe Flacco (345) combined for over 600 yards passing in the contest and neither team did anything to write home about on third down conversions (Baltimore was 8 of 17 and 1 of 2 on fourth down, while the Bengals were 4 of 14). Cincy managed to win the time of possession battle with Baltimore, holding the ball for 30:30 to Baltimore’s 29:30. “We got ourselves in position to win,” Flacco told the Baltimore Sun. “But we didn’t play well enough to win it.”

That was Sunday.

Then a new film involving suspended RB Ray Rice and his issues with alledged spousal abuse surfaced that showed Rice punching his girlfriend (who later became his wife) in an elevator in an Atlantic City casino. The video caught the attention and ire of the Ravens. The Ravens’ RB had already missed the first game thanks to a league-imposed suspension and would have missed the Thursday night contest before the team decided to cut ties with him by releasing him. The NFL then suspended him indefinitely and Rice has lost numerous sponsorships since then.

The Steelers lead the series 20-16 and have outscored Baltimore 698-674. Both teams split their two 2013 meetings and both teams won at their home nests. In week seven in the Steel City, Pittsburgh came away with a 19-16 win thanks to a 42-yard field goal by Sean Suisham as time expired. Baltimore was held to 82 yards on the ground and Roethlisberger was sacked three times, while throwing for only 160 yards, while Joe Flacco threw for 215. Both men managed to throw a TD pass in the contest. In the first matchup at Heinz Field, both teams did reasonably well on third down tries (Pittsburgh was 7 of 12, Baltimore 7 of 14; the Ravens were 1 of 1 on fourth down) and the clock was the best friend of the Steelers, who kept the ball for 31:01, which included the game-winning kick, while the Ravens held it for 28:59.

Baltimore managed to get some revenge on Thanksgiving night in the second meeting in week 13 in Charm City as they would come away with the 22-20 win at M&T Bank Stadium. That game did not go without controversy when Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin interfered with a Baltimore player by stepping on the field of play. That did not set well with Ravens fans and head coach John Harbaugh, who filed a protest with the league. The league in turn fined Tomlin $100,000 by the league and both teams failed to make the playoffs.

Tomlin vows he won’t be a member of Pittsburgh’s kickoff coverage team when the Ravens and Steelers square off Thursday night. “No, I won’t be,” Tomlin said. “Tell Jacoby [Jones] he’s safe.” Tomlin, who gave cameras a grin after the play, said that he lost his bearings while watching Jones on the RavensVision boards and did not realize he was on the field.

Baltimore managed to hold off a late Pittsburgh rally as the Steelers would score on a 1-yard pass to WR Jerricho Cotchery from Roethlisberger with 63 seconds left in the contest. Pittsburgh then attempted to tie the game with a two-point conversion but Roethlisberger’s pass to Sanders fell incomplete and later tried the onside kick in hopes of kicking a game-winning field goal but those plans fell short as the Ravens recovered the kick and ran out the clock. In the Thursday night contest, both Flacco and Roethlisberger threw TD passes (Roethlisberger with 2, Flacco had 1) but neither team managed to rush for over 100 yards in the game (Baltimore with 74, Pittsburgh with 72). Both teams did well on third down tries in the second meeting (Baltimore was 10 of 17, Pittsburgh was 7 of 13 and 1 of 2 on fourth down) and the Steelers kept the ball for 30:04 to Baltimore’s 29:56.

In the first meeting in the Steel City, the Steelers were favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under was 41. Although they missed the over/under by 5 (36), Pittsburgh’s 3-point win covered the spread. The second meeting in Charm City in week 13 (Thanksgiving Night) had the Ravens favored by 3 with a 40 1/2 over/under. The Ravens, in defense of their Super Bowl title, did manage to win the contest but missed the spread but both teams managed to cover the over/under with 42 points.

The Ravens are favored by 3 and the over/under is 44 1/2. The 44 1/2 makes sense. The 3? That’s a bit on the high side, considering what’s been going on in Baltimore this week. Baltimore will play somewhat inspired football Thursday in Charm City but Pittsburgh takes the win on the road.

Injury Report

Pittsburgh
OUT: RB Dri Archer (ankle), WR Lance Moore (groin)
PROBABLE: RB Le’Veon Bell (not injury related), WR Antonio Brown (not injury related), WR Martavis Bryant (shoulder), DE Brett Keisel (not injury related), CB Brice McCain (groin), DT Steve McLendon (stinger), TE Heath Miller (not injury related), S Troy Polamalu (not injury related), QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related), CB Ivan Taylor (not injury related), S Shamarko Thomas (achilles, ankle), C Cody Wallace (finger, hamstring), WR Markus Wheaton (not injury related), LB Vince Williams (not injury related)

Baltimore
QUESTIONABLE: CB Lardarius Webb (back)
PROBABLE: G Marshal Yanda (foot)

Weather: Partly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of scatttered thunderstorms and 82 degrees.

Thursday Records: Pittsburgh 10-13, Baltimore 3-4 

Coaches vs. Opponents: Tomlin: 9-7; Harbaugh: 6-8

BROADCAST: CBS/NFLN at 8:25 p.m.: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson (Field reporter). Westwood One: Ian Eagle, Boomer Esiason, Ross Tucker (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (WestWood1), 92 (Pittsburgh), 93 (Baltimore). XM: 88 (WestWood1), 226 (Pittsburgh), 225 (Baltimore). 

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