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RB Mendenhall ready to return for Steelers

RB Mendenhall ready to return for Steelers

PITTSBURGH (AP) Insisting he feels well with no setbacks after a full week of practice, running back Rashard Mendenhall is set to return for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Because of an Achilles injury, Mendenhall has missed all four games of a winning streak that the Steelers (6-3) carry into their Sunday showdown with the Baltimore Ravens (7-2).

Mendenhall had not been through a full practice in more than a month, but made it through complete workouts Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He is officially listed as probable.

``He looks like he's back to his old form,'' running back Isaac Redman said. ``He's making all the cuts, it looks like he has his burst. So he looks good.''

With former 1,200-yard rusher Mendenhall back, the Steelers have to decide how to split carries between he, Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. Redman and Dwyer each had 100-yard rushing games while Mendenhall was out.

``All three of us are going to play,'' Redman said. ``And we're just going to keep it rolling throughout the game and try to keep a fresh running back in there at all times. We're going to try to pound them.''

With Mendenhall unavailable to play the first three games of the season because of his recovery from a torn ACL sustained Jan. 1, the Steelers running game struggled. Pittsburgh averaged 65 rushing yards per game in starting 1-2.

Since Mendenhall returned with a 68-yard performance in a win over Philadelphia Oct. 7 - to that point, the most yards by a Pittsburgh back this season - the Steelers have improved their NFL ranking in rushing yards from 31st to 20th.

After being deactivated for the two previous games, Dwyer had consecutive 100-yard efforts in victories over Cincinnati and Washington. Then Redman had 147 rushing yards in a 24-20 win at the defending Super Bowl-champion Giants Nov. 4.

``We were able to get those 100-yard games and able to kind of pound teams out,'' Redman said, ``and kind of make them quit in the fourth quarter.''

After a mediocre, Dwyer-led, 95-yard rushing performance in a lackluster 16-13 overtime win over the last-place Kansas City Chiefs on Monday, the Steelers will have the choice of three feature backs when first place is on the line Sunday.

``We're ready, and we have all three guys - the first time all three of us are going to suit up at the same time,'' Redman said. ``So we're really looking forward to this running game.''

Whether on marching orders from the coaching staff or simply because even they aren't aware of coordinator Todd Haley's intentions, the backs insist they don't know the plan for sharing carries. Counting fullback Will Johnson, rookie speedster Chris Rainey and special teams stalwart Baron Batch, it's likely the Steelers will dress six running backs against the Ravens.

``Good thing I'm not the offensive coordinator,'' Mendenhall said with a smile. ``For us, our focus is winning first and foremost, and we want to do well as an offense with whatever helps us to do that. It's a long season, and we're going to need everybody.''

Dwyer and Redman have been steadfast in maintaining that, when healthy, Mendenhall - a 2008 first-round pick - is the first-team back. A free agent after the season, Mendenhall said he feels 100 percent healthy.

``I wouldn't step out there if that wasn't the case,'' he said. ``I feel good with where I'm at.''

With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out with his shoulder and rib injuries, Pittsburgh will lean on the run game against a Ravens defense that ranks 26th in the league in rushing yards allowed. Pittsburgh's Byron Leftwich is making his first NFL start at quarterback in more than three years.

``If (yardage) comes in chunks, if it comes in dink-and-dunk, it doesn't matter,'' Leftwich said. ``We don't care. We're just trying to win the football game. ``We all understand the importance of this football game. Let's not try to act like it ain't. This is an important football game for both teams.''

Roethlisberger isn't the only prominent Steelers player ruled out of Sunday's game. Receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) will miss his second consecutive game, All Pro safety Troy Polamalu has played only once since the season opener because of a calf injury and starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) has missed four straight games.

Free safety Ryan Clark is probable to play six days after sustaining his second concussion in a 16-day span against the Chiefs.

``Nothing is wrong,'' Clark said on Friday. ``No sensitivity to light, no headaches, no extra fatigue and no problems sleeping. Everything is fine. I'm good to go and excited to be out there on Sunday.''

Also probable for the Steelers are defensive end Brett Keisel, cornerback Ike Taylor, left tackle Max Starks and cornerback Curtis Brown.

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Online:http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

Baltimore Ravens' 2018 regular season matchups, dates and times

We've known the Ravens' 2018 preseason and regular season opponents for some time now, but the NFL finally released their full schedule with exact dates and times.

As they do every year, the Ravens will be seeing the Bengals, Steelers and Browns twice. 

For the ninth consecutive year, Week 16 and 17 will be divisional games with playoff implications.

The Ravens will also be playing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game against the Chicago Bears in Canton, Ohio, bringing an extra preseason game to their schedule.

In the regular season, the birds will be flocking south to take on the Panthers, Falcons and Titans. They haven't seen the Panthers or Falcons since 2014 - both ending in wins - and came up just short against the Titans in their 23-20 loss last season.

The Ravens will only have to travel to the west coast once when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers, who they last saw in 2015 and earned a 29-26 win.

Not including AFC North rivals, the last time the Ravens saw their remaining five home opponents they came away with wins. Hopefully history will repeat itself.

Prime-time games, which the Ravens have two of, will kick off at earlier times than in the past. Monday Night Football will now start at 8:15 p.m. while Thursday and Sunday Night Football will start at 8:20 p.m.

Ravens 2018 Regular-Season Schedule:

Week 1: Sunday, 9/9 vs. Bills, 1:00 p.m.

Week 2: Thursday, 9/13 @ Bengals, 8:20 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, 9/23 vs. Broncos. 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, 9/30 @ Steelers, 8:20 p.m.

Week 5: Sunday, 10/7 @ Browns, 1:00 p.m.

Week 6: Sunday 10/14 @ Titans, 4:25 p.m.

Week 7: Sunday, 10/21 vs. Saints, 4:05 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday 10/28 @ Panthers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday 11/4 vs. Steelers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 10:  BYE week

Week 11: Sunday 11/18 vs. Bengals, 1:00 p.m.

Week 12: Sunday 11/25 vs. Raiders, 1:00 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday 12/2 @ Falcons, 1:00 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday 12/9 @ Chiefs, 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday 12/16 vs. Buccaneers, 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Saturday 12/22 or Sunday 12/23 @ Chargers, TBD

Week 17: Sunday 12/30 vs. Browns, 1:00 p.m.


PRESEASON 

Hall of Fame Game: Thurs., 8/2, vs. Chicago Bears (Canton, OH), 8:00pm (NBC).

Week 1: Thurs., 8/9, vs. Los Angeles Rams

Week 2: Mon. 8/20,  at Indianapolis Colts (Monday Night Football, ESPN).

Week 3: at Miami Dolphins*

Week 4: Thurs., 8/30 at Washington Redskins

* - Game date and time not yet determined

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

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As 2018 NFL Draft approaches, Ravens to host QB Lamar Jackson per report

With 10 days until the 2018 NFL Draft, quarterback Lamar Jackson is set to visit the Ravens this week, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. 

The former Heisman Trophy winner is a projected first-round pick as he has proven to have success in the air and on the ground. 

While at Louisville, Jackson had 9,043 passing yards and 69 touchdowns. He also rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns. His NFL draft profile compares him to Michael Vick. 

RELATED: BEST QUOTES FROM RAVENS PRE-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE

The Ravens are in search of Joe Flacco's successor, but spending a first-round pick on a quarterback when there are other glaring needs is up in the air. However, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta isn't ruling out the possibility

"I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we're going to take him," DeCosta told the team's website on the chance of drafting a quarterback in the first-round.

At their pre-draft press conference, GM Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta kept reiterating we could be surprised by who they pick at No. 16, if they do at all. 

While Jackson's numbers are impressive, he continues to be considered a late first-round pick as his build isn't up to typical NFL QB standards and scouts are concerned with his accuracy. What he does have in his favor is speed.

While fans are hoping for an offensive weapon, having Jackson learn under Flacco for a year (and maybe RGIII?) could rev up some excitement. 

RELATED: RGIII READY TO MOVE FORWARD AS NEW, GROWN PLAYER