It's that time of year again. You know what time it is. Do I have to spell it out for you?
OK, it's Ravens Week.
Just nine days ago, when everyone (including yours-truly) was fearing for Ben Roethlisberger's life, as he was mere hours away from dealing with J.J. Watt and all of his athletically freakish 289 pounds, I wasn't sure if this Ravens Week would even matter.
But it's funny what a couple of wins will do; it's funny what 522 yards and six touchdowns will do; it's funny how much better a 5-3 start (Pittsburgh's current record after eight games) looks than a 2-6 start (Pittsburgh's record after eight games in 2013).
Not only are the Steelers 5-3, which makes them actual playoff contenders, they're actually 11-5 since they were trounced by New England on November 3, 2013. Unlike the college football playoff rankings that were unveiled Tuesday night, the NFL doesn't vote on who is or isn't a playoff contender, other than the whole power rankings chestnut. As Neal Coolong pointed out in this fine piece, perhaps the Steelers should legally qualify for the playoffs already. That's like a whole season's worth of games.
That Goodell is such an a**!
Anyway, it's time for the haters to eat a little crow. Heck, I'm probably one of those haters since I've written a lot of critical pieces about the Black-and-Gold in recent years.
Just two weeks ago, in the very chair I'm sitting in right now, I compared Dick LeBeau to Season 12 of Hawaii Five-O and James Harrison to the old show, Sanford & Son (why am I still allowed to write here?). But I don't mind eating a little crow, which I believe is a lot like raven. And ravens are also rat-birds, but if they taste anything like chicken, sign me up.
Not only does Pittsburgh have a ton of momentum, the Ravens already won earlier in the year, which means they're contractually obligated to lose this week on Sunday Night Football.
As I touched on earlier, Roethlisberger is coming off the game of his life in which he became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 500 yards for the second time in his career, and he did this while opposing Andrew Luck, who's about nine or 10 quarters away from being the best in the business. Do you honestly think No. 7 will ruin such an epic performance by letting Joe Flacco upstage him before a national audience? After all, Flacco is about nine or 10 quarters away from people wondering why the Ravens re-signed him.
Hines Ward sort of works for NBC. Do you think Roethlisberger wants Hines to say anything nice about Flacco at his expense?
Yeah, me neither.
Also, when was the last time the Steelers laid a beat-down on Baltimore? You have to go all the way back to the 2007 season when Mike Tomlin was in his first year as head coach. James Harrison was still a year away from making history (although, he had quite the coming out party against the Ravens, just ask Ed Reed) and Pittsburgh had a mere five Lombardi trophies. That's the last time we saw a blowout in favor of the home team (a 38-7 whipping at Heinz Field).
Sure, the two teams have split the past 16 games since then--including two playoff wins by the Steelers on their way to two Super Bowls. But over that span, Baltimore enjoyed its own Super Bowl victory, as well as two blow-out victories in the famed AFC North series (a 35-7 victory in Week 1 of the 2011 season and a 26-6 drubbing in Week 2 of this year.)
Meanwhile, the Steelers had to fight, scratch and claw for every single one of their eight wins. Speaking of contracts, where does it state the Ravens get to enjoy all of the "statement" games?
Lastly, a certain someone will officially have his No. 75 jersey retired during a halftime ceremony on Sunday. But Mean Joe Greene will be in the building for the entire game, which is important because when he was in his prime, the Ravens were the Browns, and he was beating the heck out of Brian Sipe.
Brian Sipe/Joe Flacco, what's the difference?
It's (blow out the) Ravens Week.