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NFL Baltimore Ravens

Dennis Pitta Should Play for Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Mark J. Rebilas – USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Pitta has only been back at practice for the Baltimore Ravens since last Wednesday, but there is no reason why he can’t suit up after a week of getting accustomed to the daily NFL routine this Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Last week, Pitta returned to the practice field for the first time since late July when a dislocated hip injury was thought to have possibly ended his season and potentially his career. The progress made by the 28-year-old was amazing, and a late-November, early-December return was considered possible. Once Pitta returned to the practice field the Ravens were given a 21-day window to activate him to the 53-man roster or else he would have to spend the rest of the season on the injured reserve list.

Obviously, the Ravens wouldn’t allow him to come back if they didn’t anticipate him playing in the near future, but they should consider him a viable candidate to play this week for several reasons.

Baltimore did not run the ball well the last time they faced the Steelers — 82 yards on 26 carries — and they will need their passing game to succeed in order to beat this defense. While they are 10th in the league against the pass (224.4 yards allowed per game) and just 23rd against the run (118.8) the Steelers always find a way to stuff the Ravens on the ground more often than not. Plus, numbers don’t mean anything in this rivalry, and sometimes it just comes down to which team’s key players make a difference.

The Steelers played a lot of single-high safety in the last matchup, and that could lead to the middle of the field and seams being open. The free safety will usually take a side of the field in that situation in order to support the corner by preventing him from getting beat deep, and the Ravens have yet to really have anyone who can go over the middle, catch the football and gain big yards in the seams. That’s where a guy like Pitta could come in.

He likely won’t be 100 percent, but an 80 percent Pitta is better than a 100 percent Dallas Clark or Ed Dickson. The Ravens showed last week that they are more than capable of throwing the deep ball, but they need to work on their underneath and intermediate routes to sustain longer drives. Lacking a true third-down threat has hurt the Ravens’ passing offense this season, but catching the Steelers on a short week may be the perfect time to insert Pitta.

A 10-day rest period before the next game against the Minnesota Vikings could give the Ravens a better idea of where Pitta is at currently. There’s no way to tell just how on track he is if he never sees game action.

Jeffrey Kryglik is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter at Jeff_Kryglik, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.