STEELERS (1-0) at RAVENS (0-1)
• Line: BAL by 2 ½
• Cote’s pick: BAL 23-20
• TV: 8:25 p.m., CBS/NFL Network (airing locally)
The safest bet in Thursday night’s AFC North duel, one of the NFL’s better and more physical rivalries, is a close game. Very. The final margins in the past five meetings have been 2, 3, 3, 3 and 3 points, and the teams seem that close once more. The latest in the Ray Rice saga – that violent video and his outright release by Baltimore this week – is a wild card that makes this game an even tougher call. I see Pittsburgh as slightly better overall, especially with fantasy-friendly RB Le’Veon Bell emerging as a terrific offensive adjunct to Ben Roethlisberger. But I also think the Rice distraction could have a coalescing, rallying effect on the Ravens, and that a prime-time stage magnifies a home-field advantage.