I will be making the trip to Pittsburgh this weekend to cover the Steelers-Bengals game. My prediction for that game as well as the other ones in the AFC North will get posted around noon in our Friday Forecast. Now, let's get started with the wake-up call ...
RAVENS: Guard Marshal Yanda (ankle) and wide receiver Torrey Smith (concussion) returned to practice Thursday with limited participation. The Ravens, meanwhile, still haven't activated Ray Lewis even though the linebacker has been participating in practice this week. “It’d be great to have him back,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said, via The Baltimore Sun. “I think it’d be a great emotional lift. But more than that, we could use some bodies in there, too, at linebacker. We’ll just have to wait and see whatever they say is a go, but we’d love to have him back.”
BENGALS: Special teams coach Darrin Simmons indicated that it will be a game-time decision on who will kick at Pittsburgh. Mike Nugent has missed the past two games with a calf injury, and Josh Brown has made all six of his field goals in Nugent's absence. Nugent is 19-of-23 on field goals this season. "We’ve got to see how Mike feels," Simmons said, via The Cincinnati Enquirer. "He’s kicked this week. He kicked yesterday. We’ll see how he responds."
STEELERS: Offensive coordinator Todd Haley brushed aside critical comments made by Ben Roethlisberger. "I think healthy conflict, discussion, banter is good because it gets you to the right place and gets everyone on the same page and where you need to be," Haley said, via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Like I've said a number of times, when I make a call into Ben's ear in the game I'm putting complete faith in him to make it the best call it can be. The same goes for him. When he hears my voice, he has to trust and believe that the play coming is giving us the best chance to succeed. You develop that in these Sunday battles against other teams. That's where it develops with the trust and camaraderie."
BROWNS: Even though their faint playoff hopes are gone, the Browns players say they will be motivated. Some view these last two weeks as final auditions in front of the franchise's new braintrust. "I think it’s obviously important no matter if you’re in the playoffs or not to go out and make a good impression for you, your teammates ’cause nothing’s given in the NFL,” left tackle Joe Thomas told the Akron Beacon Journal. “We don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the season. There may be a new coaching staff. There may be new people around here. So anytime you go out there, you want to put your best foot forward, you want to put your best stuff on tape. You don’t know where you’re going to be at the end of the year.”