As Meatloaf would say: “Don’t be sad, ’cause two out of three ain’t bad.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu back for Sunday’s game in Baltimore, but probably not Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers are just going to have to win a game without Roethlisberger, hanging their hat on the return of Brown and Polamalu.
Brown’s knack for getting open on third down could help Charlie Batch look a little better than he did in Cleveland. Remember, it was Brown and not Roethlisberger who was voted by teammates as the Steelers’ Most Valuable Player last season.
Polamalu might not be ready to play every snap, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, but if he’s still his normal, disruptive self when he is on the field, he could help the Steelers win the turnover battle and give Batch a short field to work with every now and then.
Batch’s inaccuracy would have been much less of an issue in Cleveland if at least one running back could hold onto the football. Byron Leftwich’s ribs wouldn’t have stood in the way of a victory two weeks ago if the Steelers’ punt return unit did its job.
The Steelers (6-5) can show a little pride on Sunday and make the Ravens (9-2) wait another week or so to clinch the AFC North. Even if a win Sunday is too little, too late for the Steelers’ division title hopes, the Steelers need a win to hang on to the sixth and final playoff spot. If they lose and the Bengals (6-5) win at San Diego, they’ll be a game behind the Bengals and might need to win their last four to get into the playoffs.
Playoff permutations aside, the Steelers need to win a game with Batch at quarterback just to prove they’re not a 2-14 team without Roethlisberger.
Is “Record With Backup Quarterback” one of the playoff tiebreakers? No. But if the Steelers aren’t made of sterner stuff than the 2011 Indianapolis Colts, who were helpless without Peyton Manning, they can forget about a deep playoff run.
The Steelers are 0-5 against the Ravens without Roethlisberger. However, all of those losses have been by three points except for a 27-21 loss in a meaningless game at the end of the 2007 season.
The Ravens needed a touchdown in the final minute to beat the Batch-led Steelers 17-14 in 2010. Dennis Dixon took the Ravens to overtime in 2009. Maybe the ball just has to bounce the other way for a Steelers’ backup quarterback to beat the Ravens, and it’s not like this Ravens team is reminding anyone of the ’72 Dolphins or the ’85 Bears.
Ray Rice’s fourth-and-29 conversion that saved the Ravens against the Chargers last week was straight out of the David Tyree School of Freak Miracles.
Like the Steelers, the Ravens could only beat the one-win Chiefs by a field goal. The Cowboys, another team with a losing record, came within a two-point conversion of forcing overtime in Baltimore.
Not only can the Steelers earn their adversity badge by winning Sunday with Roethlisberger in street clothes, they can put to rest the comparisons to the 2009 Steelers. That team lost five straight to drop to 6-7 and missed the playoffs. One of those five losses was that 20-17 overtime loss in Baltimore with Dixon at quarterback.
Polamalu was on the sidelines that night with an injury, and Brown was still in college.
Three years and three days later, the Steelers will find themselves back in Baltimore again led by a backup quarterback, but with Polamalu and Brown on the field.