State of Chaos?

Two newcomers have added 11 Pro Bowls worth of experience to the Ravens' offensive line. But even if they have anything left, can they mesh in time for the Steelers?

Pittsburgh – Casey Hampton last went helmet-to-helmet with Andre Gurode in 2008.

Ol' Casey made four tackles and even had a pass defense in that game, a come-from-behind win over Dallas.

What can Hampton say about playing against Gurode?

"I don't remember him," said Hampton.

He was just another faceless helmet across the way?

"I go left, right, or straight man," Hampton said. "It don't matter who's in front of me. I just do my job, you know what I mean?"

If it truly does not matter, than the Baltimore Ravens have lost their edge in the game of three-center Monty they're playing this week.

Under one cup is six-time Pro Bowler Matt Birk, 35, who didn't play in the preseason because of an injured knee.

Under cup no. 2 is Gurode, 32, the five-time Pro Bowler who was waived by the Cowboys because he's recovering from knee surgery, was due to make $5.5 million, and was beaten out by a younger player.

Gurode signed with the Ravens on Sept. 5 after being courted by four other NFL teams.

And under cup no. 3 is Bryan Mattison, 27, who started at center in all four preseason games.

"I think Gurode will be the starter, no question," said Hampton. "Or he might play guard."

The Steelers don't really know, and it may not even matter because the Ravens know how to sling the hash around. They used four different starting lines in the preseason and will use a fifth in Sunday's opener against the Steelers.

Bryant McKinnie, cut by Minnesota because he was overpaid and overweight, has already been anointed the Ravens' starting left tackle, even though he didn't play at all this preseason.

That will move Michael Oher – who allowed three James Harrison sacks the last time the Ravens lined up in earnest – over to right tackle. And that in turn will move Marshal Yanda to right guard. Ben Grubbs, the only constant, will play left guard. And, well, take your pick at center. Birk, for what it's worth, isn't listed on the Ravens' injury report this week.

Still, it all just sounds a bit too chaotic for such a big game.

The Steelers, of course, don't see it that way.

"I expect them to be real good," said Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel. "Both the guys they brought in are multiple Pro Bowl guys. I expect them to be tough. They might simplify things a little bit because they're brand new to the system, but I expect this to be a big challenge."

Does Keisel expect McKinnie and Gurode to play for their new team in the opener after missing the entire preseason?

"I do," Keisel said. "Yeah, I think they'll both play."

Isn't that a bit rushed?

"Yeah, it is. It's baptism by fire, as they say. But they brought those guys in there, I'm sure, to play and beat us. That's why they're there. It's a big divisional game. I don't know why they'd hold them back."

Hampton said that a center with a nose tackle playing over him will have an easier time making the line calls. And Maurkice Pouncey said that even though Gurode's new to the team, he's a savvy vet who'll have no problem with simplified communications.

"It ain't that hard," Pouncey said. "Everybody kind of has the same kind of running plays, just different calls. They'll simplify the calls and the rest of the offensive line will help him out during the game. But that was a good pickup."

NOTES – The Steelers practiced without rookie OLB Chris Carter and WR Jerricho Cotchery. Both have hamstring injuries. The only player to miss the Ravens' practice was LB Jason Phillips with a concussion.


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