After surprisingly starting the season 2-3, the Pittsburgh Steelers showed their resiliency by winning their next four games and were instantly right back into the hunt for the AFC North crown. Just two losses later, they find themselves one game away from being eliminated from the division race altogether.
For the Baltimore Ravens, a win today means they’ve locked up a playoff spot for the fifth consecutive year. With a win and a Bengals loss in San Diego, the Ravens will capture the AFC North for the second straight season.
This game is very meaningful to both teams, but a lot more is on the line for the Steelers. Every game is important but the Ravens can afford to lose this game and still be in line to win the division. As for the Steelers, losing is not really an option for the rest of the season as they could very well end up missing the playoffs if they don’t stay neck-and-neck with the red hot Bengals.
While games are never won on paper, things are already leaning very heavily towards the Ravens. The most important factor is that the Ravens will be at home where they are currently riding a league best 15-game win streak. It’s no secret that the Ravens rarely lose in Baltimore and that doesn’t bode well for the Steelers.
Additionally, the Steelers are not looking too good on the injury front. They’ll be starting their third string quarterback in Charlie Batch and will be without stud linebacker LaMarr Woodley. This will make the Steelers fairly one-dimensional on offense as Batch has failed to lead the offense through the air during his previous starts. Expect the Steelers to rely heavily on their running attack as Jonathan Dwyer has provided them with a boost on offense during the past few weeks.
The one thing that the Steelers definitely have in their favor is their defense. In fact, it may be the only thing giving them a fair shot on Sunday. The Steelers have the top ranked defense in the NFL and have played lights out all season. Although the LaMarr Woodley injury will hurt them, Troy Polamalu is returning, and the Steelers have more than enough playmakers to make this game interesting.