Steelers-Ravens conjures up plenty of individual comparisons.
Ray Lewis-Joey Porter.
Except, that last one doesn’t happen as often as you’d think.
The Ravens’ Joe Flacco hasn’t missed a start since being drafted in 2008. But his Steelers’ counterpart, Ben Roethlisberger, has had some bad luck when it comes to facing his team’s fiercest rival.
Until he played in consecutive full 16-game seasons for the first time in his career the past two years, Roethlisberger had missed at least one start against the Ravens six times over his first nine seasons in the league.
The most recent game Big Ben has missed? It was against the Ravens (Dec. 2, 2012).
The team Ben’s missed the most starts against? The Ravens.
Thursday will be the 17th start Roethlisberger has missed since taking over the job following making his NFL debut – against the Ravens, no less – after a Tommy Maddox in Week 2 of 2014.
Seven of the first 17 games Roethlisberger has missed will have been against the Ravens.
Put another way, Thursday is the Steelers’ 23rd regular-season game vs. Baltimore since they drafted Roethlisberger. While Ben has started 15 of them, here are the other Steelers QB’s to have started against the Ravens since 2004:
Tommy Maddox (twice)
Charlie Batch (three times)
Michael Vick (Thursday)
Maddox is 0-2, Batch has lost two of his three starts against Baltimore and Dixon and Leftwich both lost theirs. In other words, the Steelers are 1-6 against the Ravens when Roethlisberger is unavailable since he entered the league in ’04 (four were due to injury, one to suspension, one because it was a meaningless season finale and the 2004 Maddox start before a then-22-year-old Roethlisberger had earned the starting job). Ironically, the Steelers are 9-2 since 2004 when Ben hasn’t started against any team that is NOT the Ravens.
When Ben has been available to start against the Ravens during the regular season, the Steelers are 9-6 (11-7, including playoffs).
When Ben starts, the Steelers’ offense averages 18 points. When he doesn’t, they average 13.5 points.
Two of the Steelers’ five losses to the Ravens without Ben since he became their starter were in overtime – all were one-possession games, and four were by a field goal.
Interestingly, the Ben-less Ravens games have featured Dixon’s first NFL start, and the final NFL start for all three Maddox, Batch and Leftwich.
The good news? The lone win against the Ravens for a backup of Ben’s came in the most recent shot at it. Batch – a local boy who spent 12 seasons with the franchise and who knew, with his 38th birthday just days away, that it was likely his final NFL action – led the Steelers to a 23-20 win in Baltimore that kept them in the AFC North race. As time ticked off, Batch was visibly emotional.
At 35 years old himself and on his third team in three seasons and having remained a free agent until the final two weeks of training camp, Vick might be facing a similar end of the line. Who knows – an injury to him Thursday might mean it is his final NFL start, too.