Ravens vs. Steelers: Great Expectations Week

Donald Miralle

Now that the Steelers have finally achieved victory number one of the 2013 season, the expectations have been raised by a fan base still hopeful for a playoff spot. And what better team for Pittsburgh to face on its road back to relevancy than the World Champion (and struggling) Ravens?

It's the sort of commentary that's common for Steelers fans after a win that comes in the middle of a struggling season, such as the 2013 campaign has been, thus far.

Whether it's a 39-21 win over the Broncos that improves Pittsburgh to 2-6 (1988), a 13-6 victory in Cleveland that improves the Steelers to 4-7 (2003) or a 19-6 victory over the Jets that improves the Black and Gold to 1-4 (now), the comments I hear from my fellow Steelers fans are the same: "They can still make the playoffs."

I remember 10 years ago, while pass-happy Tommy Maddox was leading the Steelers to a 6-10 record, my brother would call me every week and say the same thing (win or mostly lose): "Hey, man, the AFC North is the worst division in football. They have a chance."

After about five or six weeks of this repeated narrative drenched in desperate hope, I finally said, "Look, Joe, Pittsburgh is in last place in this so-called worst division in football. Doesn't that tell you something?"

Fast-forward to 10 seasons later, after the Steelers Week 6 victory (their first of the year), my brother called me once again and started with basically the same thing, only this time looking ahead with a tinge more hope: "Hey, man, if the Steelers can beat the Ravens, they'll only be a game back of them and a game out of first place."

Apparently, according to my brother, the fact that the Bengals are 4-2, complete with a victory over Pittsburgh in Week 2, doesn't matter--they're still the "Bungals," the stripes on their helmets rendering them forever hopeless and their first place status irrelevant.

The Steelers, on the other hand, have an S in their name, and for most fans (including my brother), they're Supermen, and can overcome any 0-4 start to make the playoffs and maybe even win the Super Bowl.

You can always tell a fan base that's used to winning by observing how they analyze the standings during a struggling year and listen to what they say, even in the face of a sub-.500 record:

"We still have a chance."

And why not? The Pirates season is over, and I'm not much of a Penguins fan (until maybe the playoffs). This is all I, and thousands of other Steelers fans, have to look forward to between now and, oh heck....the NFL Draft.

The expectations have been raised, my friends. I mean, to sort of reiterate, they're pretty much always high around here, anyway, but now that the cherry of that first victory has been popped, we can dream again.

And look who's coming to town to make sure there won't be a let down as Pittsburgh goes for win number two: The "It's Ravens Week" Ravens, the Super Bowl champs, don't ya know?

If the Ravens (3-3) thought defending their Super Bowl crown was going to be easy before the season started, I guess Peyton Manning's Week 1 seven touchdown kick in the crotch was a nice little wake-up call. And along with their return to reality came a loss to Buffalo of all teams, and another one at home last week to the Packers.

Every team will be looking at Baltimore on the schedule and consider it their Super Bowl (sucks, doesn't it?) And now, in a Week 7 contest, the champs will soon find themselves in a stadium full of fans and opposing players who will not only be treating the game like their Super Bowl, after Pittsburgh's first win of the season at MetLife Stadium, they'll be facing a stadium full of fans and opposing players who kind of, sort of feel they still have the pedigree to achieve their last victory of the season at MetLife Stadium......if ya know what I mean?

Ravens, you picked the wrong week to have "Ravens week." Unlike the last two times, the Steelers aren't going to be missing their star, team-carrying quarterback on Sunday. Byron Leftwich isn't going to be around to hurt himself while falling in the end zone after a touchdown run (and even if he was, he wouldn't be allowed to do that because Mike Tomlin banned end zone flips).

You can't come into Heinz Field all hungry and stuff, because you're the defending champs, and by law, that's not allowed.

Nope. The Steelers are going to be hungry because they're 1-4, and after a victory over Baltimore, the Raiders are on the schedule. After that are dates with the Lions, Browns.....all kinds of teams Pittsburgh can beat, really.

Yes sir, every bad Steelers season has a period or two where visions of grandeur take center stage and become the narrative for a few weeks.

It's too bad, really. Too bad you're going to get caught in the wake, Ravens.

Hey, Terrell Suggs, that Lombardi Trophy might belong to you, but your "bleep" belongs to Steeler Nation, this week.

It's Great Expectations Week.

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