Heading into Sunday’s game, there was a bit of a growing sense of dread in the fan base about where the Pittsburgh Steelers might find themselves as they head out from the other side of the bye week that they are heading into now. Sitting at a 4-2 record after taking a bad loss and facing the Patriots without Ben Roethlisberger, it seemed like another sure loss, and who knows what that might mean for the division race.
But the Steelers were fortunate to get a divisional assist in that regard, as the Ravens were unable to get past the Jets, a team that Pittsburgh beat pretty handily a couple of weeks ago, resulting in Baltimore dropping its fourth straight game after getting off to a 3-0 start.
That loss ensured that the Steelers will be able to come out of the bye week with their lead in the division still in place, but that will be immediately challenged, as the Ravens are their first team on the docket after their break, and while Pittsburgh isn’t happy with its two-game losing streak, you can bet that Baltimore is even hungrier to break their four-game skid.
One of the subtexts to this game, of course, is the fact that, in spite of the fact that the Ravens meandered to just a 5-11 record in 2015, two of their five wins happened to come at the expense of the Steelers, both in games that they could have or should have been able to win, even when Pittsburgh had a backup quarterback.
Even though their main competition in recent years has been the Bengals, whom they were able to overthrow in the playoffs, the Steelers players still view the Ravens as their chief rival, and that is because the Ravens beat them.
Twice. In a losing season. And in the playoffs, the year before. And much more often than they should be comfortable with. It has been a while, in fact, since Pittsburgh has been able to sweep the season series, and they will be looking to match Baltimore’s own sweep from last year.
Whether or not Roethlisberger will be there as they begin their attempt to do just that remains to be seen, as there have been already a variety of reports about his recovery from a surgical procedure on his meniscus that has given a recovery time from a range of two weeks—meaning he would only miss the one game that has already passed—all the way up to six weeks, and five games.
But the truth is that things could be a lot worse, and it was looking like it may be worse. Baltimore jumped out to a 3-0 start to the season, and though they seemed like soft wins, as the saying goes, you are what your record says you are. Even after losing three consecutive games, they should have been able to beat the Jets, who have been in a tailspin. That they didn’t was a big comfort, I think, heading into the break.