2016 South Side Questions: Game Edition – Do Steelers Clinch AFC North Title Tonight?

The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Game Edition – Will the Steelers own the AFC North by the end of the night?

The question is simple. The answer will be known by the end of the night. But that’s no reason that we can’t discuss what we expect to see out of tonight’s pivotal game between the Steelers and the Ravens in terms of anticipated results.

The Steelers have won five games in a row since they came out of their bye week dropping losses to the Ravens and Cowboys. They have taken some hits along the way and are expected to take the field tonight down some key pieces, although the Ravens are also without their best player in the secondary.

Pittsburgh has the home-field advantage against a team that has not played well on the road at all this year, with their lone victories coming against the Browns and the Jaguars back in September. And they are also playing their best football at the moment, even if there are still some things that could use cleaning up, such as, oh, I don’t know, drive-killing penalties.

The Steelers have no doubt been very good lately, and have not allowed any of their last five opponents to score more than 20 points. Their defensive numbers have improved dramatically in every way, from efficiency metrics to splash plays.

Offensively, they have become a much more balanced team that has been probably the most successful team running the ball over the course of the past five weeks, as Le’Veon Bell has been playing at another level and the Steelers have also committed the personnel required to run the ball effectively.

Ben Roethlisberger has had his ups and downs, but his downs often coincided with injuries, and his ups have mostly been at home. He is healthy and playing in Heinz Field, so that bodes well. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco has thrown a bunch of touchdowns and interceptions while taking a bunch of sacks in the past few games.

There are a lot of data points to wade through in trying to read the tea leaves on this one. On paper, the Steelers should clearly be favored, but their recent history against the Ravens has often been ugly in the win-loss column. So what do you say? Do they break the habit of losing to the Ravens and clinch the division and a playoff berth on Christmas?

Oh, and Merry Christmas, folks. Enjoy yourselves, no matter what happens tonight.

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