Big Ben’s Absence Looms in Rivalry Game
While the rib injury Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sustained on Monday is a rare one, Big Ben being out of the lineup for the bi-annual Steelers/Ravens AFC North showdown is not rare at all.
Since becoming the starting quarterback as a rookie in 2004, Roethlisberger has missed four games against the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers are 0-4 without Roethlisberger under center.
The oddsmakers, as expected, have adjusted the line accordingly. The Steelers, expected to be a 3.5-point favorite with a healthy Roethlisberger are now +3 or higher at most sportsbooks. The adjustment is an enormous one for an NFL game, especially one with a total of only 41. Points are at a premium in this rivalry, and the oddsmakers consider the loss of Roethlisberger to be worth 6.5 points.
Here are the four occasions the Steelers faced the Ravens with someone besides Roethlisberger under center.
Nov. 20, 2005
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Ravens 16, Steelers 13 (OT)
Roethlisberger was out with a knee injury for the Steelers Week 11 matchup with the Ravens. Without Ben, the 7-2 Steelers fell to the 2-7 Ravens in overtime in Baltimore as third-stringer Tommy Maddox started for the Steelers. The Steelers would go on to win the Super Bowl with a healthy Roethlisberger.
Dec. 30, 2007
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Ravens 27, Steelers 21
With nothing to play for, the Steelers went on the road to Baltimore with Charlie Batch starting and Roethlisberger resting. Still, the oddsmakers made the AFC North Champion Steelers favorites, but, once again, the Ravens beat a Steelers backup.
Nov. 29, 2009
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
Ravens 20, Steelers 17 (OT)
Dennis Dixon found himself in his first starting role on a Sunday night in Baltimore as Roethlisberger was forced out of the lineup with a concussion. The Steelers were considered underdogs, getting nine points to an above-average Baltimore team. Dixon delivered a gutsy performance and the Steelers forced overtime where the Ravens ultimately prevailed thanks to a Dixon interception.
Oct. 3, 2010
Baltimore at Pittsburgh
Ravens 17, Steelers 14
Serving the final game of a four-game suspension, Roethlisberger was once again unavailable against the Ravens. The Steelers had gone 3-0 without Ben and they were well on their way to a 4-0 start behind strong play from Charlie Batch. However, after leading for a majority of the game, the Steelers defense allowed Joe Flacco to drive down the field with just over a minute left to connect on a game-winning touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmanzadeh with 32 seconds left.
The Steelers are 9-5 against the Ravens with Roethlisberger and 0-4 against them without their franchise quarterback. However the Steelers are 5-1 against the spread over the last five seasons without Roethlisberger, and they have showed gutsy performances against their hated rivals without Roethlisberger. The line movement is significant, especially for a Baltimore team that struggles immensely on the road. And while the Steelers have never beaten the Ravens without Roethlisberger, they have never started Byron Leftwich against them. Leftwich has been a proven starter in the league. Even though the Ravens are 4-0 against the Steelers without Roethlisberger, three of the wins were by exactly three points. So the most important thing may be the line move considering now the Ravens are giving three points and possibly more.
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1* Michigan State (4:00 ET): This will be the only matchup this season between these two perennial Big 10 powers, save for a possible matchup in the conference tournament. Both are off losses in games that they were favored to win. Wisconsin (-5.5) fell at Maryland Tuesday, 59-53, just the 3rd time all season that the Badgers ended up on the wrong end of the final score. Meanwhile, Michigan State really let one slip away Thursday at home vs. Minnesota, losing 96-90 in overtime.
Because Wisconsin is off the rare defeat, everyone is going to be expecting a bounce back from Bo Ryan's bunch at the Kohl Center. But the line seems a bit high to me. Sparty has covered the last four times these teams have played and with the more precarious NCAA Tournament status, should be the more desperate side here.
Wisconsin is just 5-9-1 ATS in conference play, including 2-5 ATS its last seven. Michigan State had won and covered four straight before the loss to Minnesota. Yes, its Senior Day in Madison, but the visitors have just one loss all season by more than 10 points. They're a good play plus the points, even if the execution in crunch time has been unusually poor for a Tom Izzo coached team. Seven of Michigan State's nine losses have been by less than five points or in overtime. 1* Michigan State