The Steelers face as close to a must win game this weekend against the Baltimore Ravens as you can at this point in the season.
The Baltimore Raven will head into the unfriendly environment of Heinz Field with a 7-2 record and a one game lead over the home town Steelers just like last season. Baltimore has been up and down all season, showing flashes of brilliance at home and dropping complete duds on the road. Although they have fought for some tough road wins as well to get to 7-2 after nine games.
The Steelers on the other hand started off the season slowly and have been dealing with just as many injury problems as the Ravens. Then over the past month they seemed to be starting their run. The much maligned offensive line in Pittsburgh has been playing much better of late and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has shown his pension for the big play with excellent pocket awareness and great footwork to keep plays alive in order for his speedy receivers to get open. The defense is still without Troy Polomalu and the offense with out Rashard Mendenhall but they have found ways to make due with what they have, facing mostly a bevy of inferior opponents.
Originally heading into this game you would have to think that the Steelers had the edge as the Ravens have shown poor play on the road and the defense has still not figured out a way to stop the run consistently. By the way, running the football is what the Steelers do. The match up not looking so good for the purple and Black at this point.
Then this weekend happened. The Ravens unleashed the seventh layer of hell on the Oakland Raiders and beat them into the turf offensively. They scored a franchise record 55 points while beating the Raiders by 35 points. This had Ravens Nation singing a whole new tune heading into the Steel City, the Seven Nation Army Chant!
Monday night, to add injury to insult, Pittsburgh's star quarterback and known Raven killer Ben Roethlisberger suffered a sprained/possibly separated throwing shoulder in an ugly game on Monday night football against the woeful Kansas City Chiefs, who inexplicably handed the game to Pittsburgh as if they were afraid to win.
It's never good to see a great player to go down... Well, unless it's the quarterback of your arch rival the week before you play them two out of three games. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather beat the Steelers with a healthy Roethlisberger but with the brand of football the Ravens have been unleashing on the road of late they may have there hands full with the Tin Man, Byron Leftwich.
So, injury to Big Ben or not, this game is much bigger for the Steelers than it is for the Ravens and perhaps the good guys can capitalize on that because they know the pressure rests mostly on a depleted team. However, it would be equally horrific on our side if the Ravens were to drop one on the road to a Leftwich lead Bumble Bee squad.
I look forward to the Steeler, Raven games for the intensity and physicality but it seems as if the Ravens are still working out some kinks in the armor and I for one welcome the chance to take a commanding lead with the second string lining up across from our guys in hopes that when we see them down the road both at full strength, we will have a much better idea of how and where all of our new parts fit the best. I just do not think we are there yet. Contrary to what some believe I think the talent is there but for some reason our players are not put in the best positions to shine.