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Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Schedule Preview Week 11: vs. Baltimore Ravens

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It started in Week 1 last year, and now the NFL makes its fanbase wait for the first installment of its best rivalry until Week 11.

I'm sure neither team particularly cares when they play each other. It's usually fitting of whatever hyperbole NBC will add for its Sunday Night Football match-up.

In an alternate series breaking down contenders in the AFC, our brethren at Baltimore Beatdown implied disagreement with BTSC's assessment that the Ravens will have more difficulty defending its AFC North crown than they had in winning it in 2011. While this game won't decide everything, it will likely be a big step in solving the AFC playoff puzzle.

Ravens Losses

LG Ben Grubbs packed up and moved his things to New Orleans while LB Jarrett Johnson exited stage west to San Diego. While both talented players, good teams lose players every year, and the better teams are able to make up for that with little - if any - loss. In the Ravens' case, Johnson's loss will be felt more than Grubbs' loss will be, but their scheme and tradition of defense will survive, the same way as it has for the last decade.

With QB Joe Flacco (no extension) and RB Ray Rice (franchised) not having signed long-term extensions yet this off-season but both showing up to minicamp yesterday, they appear to have many components of last year's AFC runner-up in place.

Except for that Terrell Suggs guy.

There's no replacing a player of his caliber, and to some extent, the defense will have to alter original plans without the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. They'll expect to get pressure from rookie Courtney Upshaw and veteran Paul Kruger, and it's very well possible they could get that pressure from a combination of those two, but new defensive coordinator Dean Pees' has a challenge from the get-to.

Ravens Improvements

The continued development of CB LaDarius Webb and stand-up seasons from CB Cary Williams and SS Bernard Pierce have the Ravens secondary poised to become the strength of their team. Second-year CB Jimmy Smith will likely vie for Williams' starting position, but however they mix it, they have as good a nucleus of cornerbacks as any other team in the league. As soon as FS Ed Reed finishes his yearly raise request, and arrives at training camp in July, the Ravens will show a nice mix of experience, versatility and talent among their defensive backfield.

Baltimore is a solid and deep team all-around, and could possibly even have Suggs back for this game (his words). It will likely be another classic match-up - one of two they'll play against each other between Weeks 11 and 13.