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The Ravens offensive line essentially played the second half of their 17-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers without two starters, and the status of left tackle Michal Oher and right guard Chris Chester is still in question this week.
Against the pass-rushing talents of the Pittsburgh Steelers this weekend, the Ravens could have some uneasy issues on an offensive line.
There was no immediate update regarding Oher’s sprained knee in Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh’s Monday press conference, and Harbaugh said that he would take a wait-and-see approach with Chester’s skin infection.
With their patchwork unit, which featured Tony Moll in for Chester and Oniel Cousins subbing for Oher, the Ravens allowed the Bucs to log four sacks and five hits of quarterback Joe Flacco.
The Ravens are circling the wagons along their front wall.
“As an offensive line, you can’t make excuses,” said left guard Ben Grubbs. “Tony has done a hell of a job. Oniel did a good job [Sunday]. We have to keep moving no matter who’s in there.”
The Steelers’ defense is currently tied for second in the NFL with 32 sacks. A healthier offensive line saw success against them earlier this year.
In Week 3, Oher shut down former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison, and Yanda stymied linebacker LaMarr Woodley. That pass-rushing duo has combined for 16 ½ sacks in 2010, but the Ravens’ starting bookends largely got it done in one-on-one situations.
If Oher is not set to play, Cousins would likely be tasked to protect Flacco’s blind side. It was around this time last year – a 23-20 Steelers win on Dec. 27 – when Cousins started for the Ravens at right tackle and Woodley logged two sacks off his edge (Moll also filled in briefly when Cousins got injured).
Should the two backups fill in this weekend, the Ravens could do some things to negate Pittsburgh’s threat off the edges, such as keep a tight end on the line to block, or chip rushers with a running back.
Still, Harbaugh said Moll and Cousins both played “solid football” last Sunday.
“Tony gives you value because he can do a lot of things,” Harbaugh explained. “He plays all five positions across the front. I thought he did a solid job at right guard. Oniel came in and was physical – especially in the run game. He held up pretty well in pass protection, too.”
For his part, Flacco believes his jersey will stay clean in his upcoming Sunday Night Football matchup, regardless of who is in front of him.
“No matter who you have in there on the offensive line, there are going to be times when they’re going to get theirs and they’re going to make plays,” said Flacco, who has taken 23 sacks all season. “We’ll be ready for that no matter what. We’ll do our things to make sure we game plan for it and protect ourselves.”