Normally, this is the story titled "How to Beat the Steelers," but because of our long history with them, both teams and fans are so familiar with each other, we know what to do in order to win in this rivalry. For the Baltimore Ravens, the key is not how or what to do to win, but when. Never before has this game meant so much in 2009, as the combination of our record and our opponent euals a serious definition of "do-or-die" if ever there was one.
Win and stay in the playoff hunt, lose and you're out. Win and break the streak of losing to the Steelers and at least temporarily quiet the gloating fans for a few weeks. Lose and the trash talk and humbleness must continue and with good cause. Losing three times to Pittsburgh last season gave them every right to hold their heads high while we Ravens fans had to take it and seeth all summer waiting for the chance to turn things around.
This season would be different we swore to ourselves.
Once the 2009 season began, we saw the evidence we wanted to see in order to make those thoughts come true. However, with losses in five of our seven past games, the doubt is beginning to seep through the cracks in our confidence. However, the Steelers have not been playing lights out and a loss in Kansas City last week has the Steelers wobbling as well as their big play QB. A woozy Ben Roethlisberger should be an early and often target of the Ravens defense to test out whether his skull can take the pounding all game long.
The issues surrounding the repeated concussions that players in the NFL are receiving at alarming rates these days should cause serious concern amonst the players, the teams, fans and especially players' families. Not wishing any ill will towards our opponents health, especially after retiring, the stories about the relation between concussions and later brain injury studies showing increased dementia, Alzheimers Disease, psychotic behavior and early death should have everyone worried.
Big Ben should be very concerned about how his repeated head banging is going to reflect on his post-football future and while I'm not advocating taking shots at players' heads, we all know that the helmet that was designed to protect their brain is also a weapon for the defenders. I want to win this game as much as any Ravens fan, but at what expense to our opponent, much less our players?
This post is supposed to be focused on the timing being now to beat the Steelers, so let's stay on track after that diatribe about what I've read recently regarding the aforementioned brain injuries in the NFL. As stated earlier, the timing for what's at stake with the playoffs combined with the history of our recent rivalry has this game circled on most football fans' watch list, as every football fan knows these two teams leave it all on the field in this matchup. Regardless of players' injuries coming into the game and who is out for the game makes no difference. Last year both teams were fighting for playoff position, now we're both fighting to just get into the post season.
The stakes Sunday night is basically for the right to play football in January, as the next time they meet in Pittsburgh may not make a difference in the outcome of the season. For the Baltimore Ravens, the time is now.