Football lovers have been waiting for this for weeks, but it almost didn’t happen. The AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens, 7-2, face off against the second place Steelers, 6-3, on Sunday Night Football in America.
|BIG INTERCEPTION—Steelers linebacker LawrenceTimmons (94) runs after intercepting a pass from Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel during overtime at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Monday, Nov. 12. (Courier Photo/Thomas Sabol)
The Steelers almost messed everything up with a loss to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs, 1-8, which would have rendered this game of little importance. The Steelers pulled it out with a 16-13 overtime win, but may have lost their starting quarterback for this game and maybe more.
The Ravens did what they had to do to stay on top as they destroyed the Oakland Raiders 55-20, breaking a Baltimore record. Joe Flacco had one of his best games going 21 for 33 for 341 yards and three touchdowns.
Even with key injuries to some of the defensive players, the most important being defensive leader Ray Lewis, the Ravens looked very impressive against Oakland in doing what they had to do to keep the Raiders in check.
This appears to be the year that the offense is finally living up to the defense with Flacco having his best season. He has a wide array of receivers and distributes the ball to just about everyone. Running back Ray Rice is the most dangerous threat, in the air and as on the ground, as he continues to be one of, if not the best, all around back in the NFL.
Even though the offense has carried them, the defense is still one of the best in the league despite the loss of key players. They still have Terrell Suggs who may be the best defensive player on the planet, which makes them better than the Chiefs, who held the Steelers offense in check.
The Steelers had won three games in a row and appeared to be peaking at the right time until the Kansas City game in which the offense looked terrible even with Ben Roethlisberger. He was only 9 of 18 for just 84 yards before the injury and Byron Leftwich didn’t do much more as he was 7 of 14 for 73 yards. The running game totally disappeared with neither Isaac Redman, 21 yards on 8 carries or Jonathan Dwyer, 56 yards on 19 carries, being effective.
Roethlisberger will not play against the Ravens, which leaves Leftwich as the starting quarterback and Charlie Batch as his backup. The Steelers have won before with Leftwich and Batch. With all the weapons they have at their disposal and the fact that both will get plenty of practice time, and most importantly, the explosive Antonio Brown will be back on offense and on the special teams, they can win without Roethlisberger.
If the Steelers win, they pull into a tie with the Ravens, but would have the tie breaker because they beat them. If the Ravens win it gives them a full two game lead and puts the Steelers in a position where they would have to be a wild card, which means the road to the Super Bowl would be on the road.
The Steelers play the ever improving but young Cleveland Browns after the Ravens, before traveling to Baltimore to play the Ravens again. They need to win all three games. If they do they are in the driver’s seat with only the Houston Texans having a better record.
But they must start Sunday night at Heinz Field.