It goes without saying that the Ravens, losers of two straight games, will be extremely angry this Sunday when they take on the Steelers in a very important Week 9 match-up at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.
Will that anger help end Baltimore’s two-game slide?
If you’re a Steelers’ fan, you may think it will, and why? Because that’s how it works when your team goes up against their team.
The Ravens are tough, well-coached, and they just have the Steelers’ number. Fair enough. But can’t you say the same thing about Pittsburgh in relation to playing the Ravens? This AFC North rivalry isn’t one of the closest and most hotly-contested in recent NFL history for nothing.
These teams are like mirrors of one another, and while that can often culminate in three-point contests, it can also mean other things.
I think those other things will rear their ugly heads this weekend in Baltimore—at the Ravens’ expense.
When these two teams met at Heinz Field on September 30, they were in different places. Winners of two of their first three games, the Ravens arrived in Pittsburgh looking confident, poised and pretty buttoned-up as far as their operation was concerned. The Steelers, on the other hand, were coming off of their first win of the season six days earlier—an exciting, but uneven 30-27 victory at Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football.
Speaking of uneven, that described Pittsburgh’s performance in all three phases over the first three weeks.
Maybe that’s why the result was a 26-14 road win for Baltimore in a game that really wasn’t even that close.
The Ravens’ defense put the clamps on Pittsburgh’s offense for three of the four quarters of game-action—including not allowing Ben Roethlisberger and Co. to cross midfield the entire second half. As for Joe Flacco and his crew, they methodically marched up and down the field on Pittsburgh’s defense for the better part of four quarters—Baltimore possessed the football for over 22 minutes in the second half, alone.
But a lot can happen in a month.
The Steelers have spent the past three games getting their swagger back with impressive victories over the Falcons, Bengals and Browns, respectively. Pittsburgh has found its offensive stride, averaging over 33 points per game. As for the defense, while it will never be a unit fans fully trust—at least not in the near future—it has shown great improvement over the past month, allowing just under 19 points per game in the three wins.
The Ravens, meanwhile, come into this Sunday’s game reeling after those two losses. The first loss, 24-23 to the Saints on October 14, came at home and was the result of a missed extra point by Justin Tucker in the final seconds. Tucker has been about as automatic and deadly as any kicker in history during his NFL career; for him to cost Baltimore a game on, of all things, an extra point, well, that could send the entire team into a huge funk. And funky is what Baltimore smelled like last week during a 36-21 road loss to a very good Panthers squad.
Speaking of good squads, other than the Steelers, Baltimore hasn’t really beaten any so far this season (and it’s very debatable as to whether Pittsburgh was a good squad the night of September 30, 2018).
Right now, the Steelers are performing at a level many thought they would before the season—that of a championship contender. Baltimore, on the other hand, is playing like a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2014.
This is just a guess, but the Steelers were probably a pretty upset crew on September 30. Yet, it didn’t seem to help their performance.
The Ravens may be one angry bunch right now. Unfortunately for them, the Steelers are a better bunch.
Therefore, don’t be surprised if the Steelers do to the Ravens this Sunday what the Ravens did to the Steelers just a few Sundays ago.