PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers have an opportunity to create some mid-season separation in the AFC North.
To do that, they will have to beat the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday, a venue where the Steelers have found it difficult to win and generate offense at times in the past.
“We just focus on this opportunity ahead of us,” Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown said. “We don’t focus on the magnitude of the division. We know if we take care of our business, things will work out for themselves. It’s another opportunity this week to do what we desire to do.”
The first-place Steelers (4-2-1) have won three straight after a 1-2-1 start. Their last loss came Sept. 30 against the Ravens at Heinz Field, as the Steelers converted 2-of-12 third downs and rushed for just 19 yards in that game.
“I don’t think there would be any player that would say they felt like they played their best game,” Steelers’ offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said. “And when we had a chance to look back through it, we were pretty critical of what we did and what we didn’t do. It was a pretty good eye-opener.”
The Steelers offense has found its stride since then, while Baltimore (4-4) has lost three of four. But the Ravens have experienced past success against the Steelers in Baltimore.
The Steelers beat the Ravens 26-9 last season in Baltimore. But prior to last season’s win, the Steelers lost the previous four games and five of their last six road games against the Ravens dating back to September 2011.
Brown has just 40 receptions for 427 yards and one touchdown in eight games at Baltimore. That’s an average of five catches and 53 yards per game for the four-time All-Pro.
Brown, who leads the league this season with eight touchdowns, has never had a 100-yard game against the Ravens in Baltimore.
“It’s a tough place to play,” Fichtner said. “There’s great fan support and it’s loud. They get excited playing in their crowd. Snap-count is always an issue. We’ve had some big games there in my past 12 years here. It’s an exciting place to play.”
Roethlisberger owns a career completion percentage of 64 percent, but he’s completed just 57 percent of his passes in Baltimore.
Roethlisberger, who ranks sixth in the league in passing yards this season, has never had a 300-yard game in Baltimore. He’s thrown nine touchdowns to 13 interceptions at M&T Bank Stadium, and has been sacked 29 times in 10 games, including eight in the last four contests.
The Steelers are 3-6 in games Roethlisberger has started in Baltimore. Roethlisberger enters Sunday’s game against the Ravens with a broken index finger on his non-throwing hand. He sustained the injury at some point in Pittsburgh’s home win against Cleveland last Sunday.
Roethlisberger fully practiced Thursday and Friday.
“Ben’s a tough guy, and he’s been through a lot,” Brown said. “He’s one of the toughest ever to do it. You don’t see him complaining. This guy’s a warrior.”
Brown hopes the Steelers can pick up an important victory on Sunday at a place where wins and yards have been hard to come by.
“It’s a hostile environment with fiery fans,” Brown said. “It’s one of those environments you love to excel in. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to go out and compete this weekend.”
NOTES: Steelers CBs Coty Sensabaugh (toe) and Artie Burns (ankle) are both questionable for Sunday’s game, while OT Marcus Gilbert (knee) is doubtful. Sensabaugh fully practiced on Friday, while Burns left practice early with his ankle injury. Matt Feiler will start at right tackle for the second straight week if Gilbert cannot play.
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