There are six weeks remaining in the NFL regular season and the Pittsburgh Steelers are in desperate need of a win. The team is currently on a two-game losing streak after a disappointing loss at home against Cincinnati, followed by a horrific overtime loss on the road to the woeful Kansas City Chiefs. With a 6-4 record, the Steelers now find themselves as the sixth seed in the AFC and are holding on for their playoff lives. It is now do-or-die time for this team, where every game will be a must-win scenario. As the Steelers head into the home stretch of their season, they will travel to Maryland to take on a familiar foe in the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. These two teams faced off three times last season in some of the most physically brutal football games witnessed in recent memory. In each game, the two teams brought out the best in one another. That being said, with the way the Steelers have been playing as of late, a matchup with the Ravens could be just what the doctor ordered.
In seasons past, the Pittsburgh Steelers have always been known for their consistent style of play. So far this year, it appears the Steelers have taken on the persona of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Playing at a high level one week and coming out flat the next has been this team’s moniker all season. After impressive victories over the Minnesota Vikings and on the road against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, it looked as though this team was finally back to Super Bowl form. However, in the last two games the Steelers do not seem like they are playing with much emotion, as if there is no sense of urgency. While key injuries on defense and lackluster special teams have exposed flaws, they are just part of an even bigger problem. We are now eleven weeks into the regular season and still, no one knows the identity of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Are they the team that beat the then 6-1 Denver Broncos in dominating fashion at Invesco Field three weeks ago? Or, are they the team from this past weekend who lost to the lowly 2-7 Kansas City Chiefs in overtime? This team will have to answer that question soon, if they wish to be playing football in late January.
While the Steelers’ season can be looked at as a disappointment, the Baltimore Ravens have had their own struggles. After beginning the season 3-0, the Ravens have lost five of their last seven to bring their record to an even 5-5. The offense is led by second-year quarterback, Joe Flacco, who has thrown for over 2,400 yards and has twelve touchdowns thus far. Halfback, Ray Rice, is the centerpiece of Baltimore’s rushing attack. Rice already has over 730 yards on the ground, to go along with his six rushing touchdowns. Defensively, the Ravens are still led by the man in the middle, Ray Lewis. Lewis is leading the team in tackles with 83 and has two sacks, with two forced fumbles on the year. In the secondary, quarterbacks still have to keep a watchful eye on Ed Reed. The so-called, “ball hawk,” has three interceptions on the season, as well as three forced fumbles.
Tension will be at a max for this game, as a win by either team is imperative in order to keep playoff hopes alive. It has been a difficult and trying season up until this point for these two teams, both of whom represented the conference in the AFC Championship Game last season. The Steelers will be playing in front of a hostile Baltimore crowd, against one of the league’s most feared defenses. But, they must find a way to overcome this tumultuous challenge. Their season depends on it. With the stakes as high as they are for both teams, this is already shaping up to be another instant classic in this great NFL rivalry.
Michael C. Smith