Many of the comments in SteelerNation recently have been in regards to what the AFC North-leading Ravens were doing. Would they win? Can the Steelers catch them? When will Joe Flacco melt down?
My responses to those questions have been, "I don't know." "I don't care." "Doesn't matter.
Sunday night proved why.
Because Sunday means nothing without a Steelers win on Monday.
As Ravens fans re-group to lick their collective tanned hides after San Diego flawlessly executed a great game plan and kicked the tar out of their team, calls of "choke" can be heard from San Diego to Baltimore. But it doesn't matter. For the Steelers, what Baltimore does is irrelevant.
I've said this in the weeks leading up to this upset of sorts; whichever team wins out will win the AFC North. If they both lose a game, Baltimore will finally host a playoff game. The Ravens getting worked last night means nothing to the Steelers unless they win out. To do that, they have to win their own Toughest Game Remaining.
It won't be a cakewalk, either. How far are the Steelers from having a "Meltdown Before Christmas" performance of their own? They're playing a good team on the road in prime time. Baltimore played a good team on the road in prime time. Injuries hit the Ravens at a shallow position (cornerback). Injuries hit the Steelers at shallow positions (offensive line and quarterback).
In essence, the Ravens losing didn't win the Steelers anything. And with the final buzzer coming approximately 15 hours from now, it very well could be the Steelers and Ravens are in the same position they were going into Week 15.
Champions don't win because their rival just lost. They win because they beat the team across the line from them.
(Incidentally, champions also don't give a rat's behind what the media think of Tim Tebow. Perhaps you should just prepare for your game, Joe, and don't worry about how many highlights you have on Sportscenter. Can't believe no one else is calling Flacco out for this. Imagine if James Harrison had said it.)
And that has been the team's mentality as well. They won a tougher-than-nails game at Cincinnati. protected home field against that same Bengals team as well as a fiesty Browns team. They even went on the road to take down Kansas City, who turned out to be better than we thought (Romeo Crennell beat the Packers??).
Word is QB Ben Roethlisberger will start. He either did a good job playing possum this week, avoiding the media and not specifically addressing whether he would play. Or, he could really be hurt.
Who is Roethlisberger without mobility? Tommy Maddox 2.0?
The main reason he's playing is because Pittsburgh has to prepare as if each game is a playoff. It's easier to chase in the NFL, not be the chased. Roethlisberger is not playing in an effort to chase the Ravens. He's playing because ever since Torrey Smith caught that touchdown pass in Pittsburgh, it was win-out-or-pack-your-bags time for the Steelers.
The interesting thing is it seemed to all point to Week 15; Steelers at San Francisco, New England at Denver (and vice versa) and Baltimore at San Diego. The contenders are going to find ways to win those games. The pretenders will wilt.
And San Diego is a better team than Kansas City and Indianapolis. There's still a lot of football left and it starts tonight.