No Ben vs. Ravens

The Steelers will be without their quarterback tonight, but still have time to get healthy and make a playoff run.

PITTSBURGH – Time to get out the abacus and the NFL tiebreaker formulas, because the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to have to do this the hard way.

The Steelers will play the Baltimore Ravens tonight at Baltimore with their No. 3 quarterback at the controls. The Steelers will sit Ben Roethlisberger because of "exercise-induced headaches as the week progressed," according to Fox Sports' NFL reporter Jay Glazer.

The Steelers have confirmed that Roethlisberger will be the emergency No. 3 quarterback for tonight's game after the quarterback suffered a concussion last Sunday in Kansas City.

With backup Charlie Batch also sidelined, the Steelers will give second-year quarterback Dennis Dixon his first start.

Dixon was the Steelers' fifth-round draft pick in 2008 after guiding the University of Oregon to an 8-1 record before injuring his knee. He was the unanimous choice as the Pac-10's Offensive Player of the Year for his throwing and running skills in the Ducks' spread offense.

Dixon saw action in only one NFL game his rookie season. In the 2008 regular-season finale, Dixon was the second replacement for a concussed Roethlisberger and directed the Steelers' final two series against the Cleveland Browns. He completed his only pass for three yards.

This preseason, Dixon completed 18 of 35 passes for 180 yards without an interception or touchdown. His passer rating of 66.4 was up slightly from the 64.1 rating of his rookie preseason.

Dixon took the majority of e practice reps this week, and was asked what the offense will look like with him at the controls.

"I don't think it'll be exactly the same," he said. "But (number) seven has been in this offense for a while now, so I wouldn't think the game plan is going to dramatically change. It would be little things to where it would help me."

Dixon's backup will be former Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko, who was signed to the practice squad late Wednesday and will be activated today.

Of course, the late-week developments at quarterback and the loss of defensive playmaker Troy Polamalu make the 6-4 Steelers heavy underdogs against the Ravens, their 5-5 rivals who are looking to avenge three losses to the Steelers last season.

If the Steelers fall to 6-5, not all would be lost. A successful run through their remaining five games (Oakland, at Cleveland, Green Bay, Baltimore, at Miami) would give the Steelers an 11-5 record, and only two out of the 71 teams that finished 11-5 in NFL history did not qualify for the playoffs.

One of those two teams was New England last season. The Patriots fell third in line behind the 12-4 Indianapolis Colts and the 11-5 Ravens as playoff wildcards. The Patriots lost their tiebreaker to the Ravens because of a 7-5 conference record.

The Steelers (4-3 in conference) wouldn't have to compete with such powerful records for a wild card this season. Only Denver (7-4), Jacksonville (6-4) and Houston (5-5) would be considered threats should the Steelers win their final five games. And the Steelers have beaten Denver, while Jacksonville and Houston play each other and must each play New England and Indianapolis.

Of course, the Steelers could win tonight behind their top-ranked defense and underutilized-but-talented run game.

The Steelers are in position to join the 1984-86 Chicago Bears as the only teams in NFL history to lead the league in total defense three consecutive seasons. Tonight, that Steelers defense will go up against a Ravens offense that's scored only four touchdowns in the last four games, or since quarterback Joe Flacco twisted his ankle. In those four games, Flacco has a passer rating of 67.2.

The Ravens' top run stuffer, Haloti Ngata, has also been playing on an injured ankle. Ravens pass-rusher Terrell Suggs is doubtful with an injured knee, while linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed are both questionable with foot injuries.

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