Can you hear that? That is the sound of smack talk between the NFL’s biggest rivals, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers!

I am so fired up about the game that I am having a hard time calming myself down to write this article. Also hard to refrain from having to bleep myself here, I have a lot of choice words for that team and their fans.

But focus I must, it is time to get down to business and prepare for the first meeting between the Ravens and the Steelers. The nationally televised game will be played Sunday night in Pittsburgh.

The 7-2 the Ravens hope to beat the 6-3 Steelers to stay on top of the AFC North.

Typically known for their rough and tumble defenses, both teams are a bit banged up and missing some key players.

The Steelers will be without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who suffered shoulder and rib injuries in Monday night’s game against Kansas City and was ruled out for Sunday.

Backup quarterback Byron Leftwich will get the start. Leftwich isn’t as mobile as Roethlisberger, but he has a strong arm and is fully capable of launching the ball down the field.

Without Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ offense is likely to run the ball and throw quick passes. The Ravens’ defense has struggled to stop passes they need to step up their game to swarm and tackle.

Before Roethlisberger was ruled out, the Steelers were 3.5 point favorites, now the Ravens are favored by a field goal.

The Ravens struggle on the road and Heinz Field is a tough place to play, but Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco has played well there. The last two games at Heinz Field were won the on two touchdown drives with 30 seconds left in each game.

Defensively the Steelers are still ranked number one despite being without two of their star players; safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison.

The Ravens are also without their key defensive players. Linebacker Ray Lewis is out after having surgery to repair a torn triceps and cornerback Lardarius Webb is out with a torn ACL.

Hopefully defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will return for the game. He did not play last week due to shoulder and knee injuries; he is probable for Sunday. He was limited in practice this week, but said he “feels good”.

Other key injuries include defensive end Pernell McPhee who is doubtful with a thigh injury. He was limited Wednesday and Thursday, did not practice Friday.

Defensive tackle Terrence Cody is questionable. He was added to injury report after having arm issues. He was limited Thursday, did not practice Friday.

As part of the comprehensive injury report, other notable players listed as probable include wide receiver Jacoby Jones, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, safety Ed Reed and linebacker Courtney Upshaw.

I am fired up for this game, but since some key players will not be on the field, I’m not really sure what to expect. The Ravens’ defense has struggled this season, but showed signs of improvement in the last two games though I still feel better about facing Leftwich instead of Roethlisberger.

Even with banged up defenses, I still expect to see a physical game. It will be like a war, one I hope the Ravens win. I like the view from the top of the AFC North and I’m not ready to give it up.

By MelissaRubin

Self-proclaimed sports junkie. Lifelong Baltimore sports fan residing in DC. Baltimore Ravens are my favorite team, I'm a die-hard fan and in constant need of a football fix. Baltimore Orioles and Washington Capitals fan too. Follow her on Twitter @egoddess1