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Colts vs. Steelers: Bring on the Baltimore Ravens

It will be difficult to find a recent Steelers vs. Ravens game with more emotion heading into it during the regular season than the upcoming Week 9 tilt between the two bitter rivals.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

To suggest the Steelers slaughtered the Indianapolis Colts may be an understatement. If not for a few big passing plays given up by the same cornerback, it would have been even worse.

The Steelers headed into a three-game stretch in the middle of the 2014 season that would define them as a team for the 2014 season and maybe even beyond that. A Houston team carrying with it the league's best defensive player, followed by a Colts team with the league's highest-scoring offense, then a strong Ravens team embattled just as much as the Steelers in the NFL's best division.

My initial thought, looking at these three games, was that the Steelers would consider themselves fortunate to escape at 1-2. But now, they'll be no worse than 2-1 and why couldn't they sweep all three?

Beating the Colts isn't easy and perhaps beating the Ravens will be even more difficult, but we just saw the best offensive game from the Steelers during the Ben Roethlisberger Era. This wasn't the feeble Oakland Raiders defense; the Colts had played outstanding defensive football leading into this game. And the offense also played well against the Watt-led Texans the previous week. Why shouldn't the Steelers be confident now in their ability to score points against a very good Ravens' defense?

Speaking of defense, do the Steelers need any more inspiration for this game than the formal retirement of "Mean" Joe Greene's number? No one would dare wear No. 75 for the Steelers of course (or perhaps for the Pens or Pirates as well), but now they're bringing in The Man - the best defensive player in the history of the NFL - for a full-fledged ceremony. Does any Steelers player want to be less than excellent in this battle against their arch-rival?

That's motivation.

Make no mistake, this is a very good Ravens team and one that has improved tremendously in terms of its running game and pass protection. But after the 26-6 drubbing Baltimore put on the Steelers in Week 2, in a short week for a Steelers team even shorter on experience, the situation is vastly different. The Steelers in Weeks 7-8 are leaps and bounds better than the one on the field in Weeks 1-2. This team has grown quite a bit and still may not have hit its ceiling. Take out from this game an officiating crew apparently paid by the flag, and Colts' quarterback Andrew Luck's performance looks far worse than it was. And I'm including the plays when Cortez Allen was on the field.

This is going to be a classic Steelers-Ravens game and it's coming just at the right time for the surging Steelers. And I'm looking forward to hearing the story of Mean Joe's pre-game address.