Christmas is coming and the expectations are getting fat, as the Pittsburgh Steelers continue merrily along Redemption Road with yet another impressive win after de-striping the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
Yet, an entire season can be for naught, or at least become naughty, if the team fails against the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas Day. Not only because it would complicate their playoff hopes, but losing twice in a season to Baltimore would ruin even the most meticulously prepared Christmas meal.
On the flip side, a victory against the team’s crabby rivals could spread Christmas cheer across Steelers Nation and would give the team tremendous momentum as the regular season winds down and the playoffs approach.
So…without any more pa rum a bum bum, here is your weekly Spin:
It’s A Wonderful Life
It’s a wonderful life with the Steelers riding a five game winning streak. If they make it a six game winning streak capped off with a win against the Ravens the Pittsburgh will lock up the AFC North. These are happy days to be waving a Terrible Towel.
The Miracle On 34th Street
The Steelers were 4-1 when QB Ben Roethlisberger fell to injury causing an audible and horrifying gasp across the Nation. The real miracle of the 2016 season, it must be remembered, was his rapid recovery. This miracle remains on thin ice, as even though this season isn’t his best, the team still will go only as far as he takes them. Let’s hope the team has a better Plan B next season.
Big Ben will be back on his home turf against the Ravens and so far this season, that has made all of the difference. Expect him to have one of his better games this year, despite the imposing defense he’ll be facing. The Steelers will need to win twice and hope the Oakland Raiders drop their last two to get the number two AFC playoff seed. With Roethlisberger being such a homer this year, that might be another Christmas miracle to ask Santa for before he heads out with his sleigh.
A Steelers and Ravens rivalry match served up on Christmas Day? What could be better? Well…winning the game, of course. In fact, are any of you a wee bit nervous of how easily the Christmas spirit could be ruined with another performance like the last time the team faced the Steelers? Bah humbug.
The loss of TE Ladarius Green to concussion protocol this week is a huge blow to the head of the Steelers offense as well. Can tight ends Jesse James or Xavier Grimble fill the Green gap? Hmmm…probably not. And with WR Sammie Coates hamstrung for this game the Steelers passing game may be in trouble against the Ravens. The solution? The team is going to need the diminutive WR Eli Rogers to have his best game of the year.
This doesn’t mean WR Antonio Brown won’t be riding the express train himself against the Ravens. Don’t think that Brown enjoyed his former Young Money bestie WR Mike Wallace besting him in Baltimore earlier this year. You will either see Brown light it up or you might end up seeing him lighting up Big Ben and Todd Haley on the sideline.
Weather may play a role in Pittsburgh with temperatures dropping and a 50% chance of precipitation. Will it be a White Christmas? Probably only if you watch Bing Crosby on Sunday, but that won’t change the fact the running game will be the more reliable option. Unless, of course, you’re facing one of the top run defenses in the league. Oh yeah…there’s that.
If tackle Marcus Gilbert is feeling a bit Scrooged for not making the Pro Bowl again this year, let’s hope he takes it out on the Ravens. In fact, if the Steelers offensive line wants to cement its reputation as among the best in the league, this game will provide the perfect canvas for their season’s best masterpiece. They got manhandled by the Ravens front seven the last time these teams met. If this Steelers offensive line is resurgent and truly Super Bowl grade, you’ll know by the end of the first quarter.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The rivalry against the Ravens has always been decided in the trenches. The Steelers biggest vulnerability this time around will be whether or not their defensive line can hold up without their two best players at that position, defensive ends Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt. As unpleasant as it can be to see wide receivers Steve Smith and Wallace have big games, even more distasteful would be seeing the Ravens offense march down Heinz Field in front of the faithful. When Tuitt went down last week it was baffling to see how many times the Steelers went with two down linemen. Let’s hope Tomlin and Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler put in the beef this game.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
The Steelers have a chance to lock up the AFC North with a win over the Baltimore Ravens. Perhaps equally important, they can also dim the hopes of the Nevermores making it to the playoffs. That would be desirable…because who wants to play the Ravens for a third time this year in the wildcard round? Yawn. It takes the joy out of taking on someone new in the playoffs.
Looks like it’s coal in the stockings for the Steelers Hall of Fame QB Terry Bradshaw as he had the audaciousness to question Coach Mike Tomlin’s greatness. If it wasn’t bad enough that he received a frosty reception in Pittsburgh for years because of his chilly relationship with legendary former head coach Chuck Noll, now it looks like he won’t be sitting in the Rooney’s box anytime soon. But is it that crazy to still wonder if Tomlin is a good…but not great…coach? This year will have more to do with answering that question succinctly than any other one prior.
A Christmas Carol
So…what does the Ghost of Christmas Future say about this highly anticipated rematch? The Ravens have the advantage with a four game winning streak in this series and it must be said John Harbaugh has gained the upper hand over Tomlin as of late. Still…this is not a great Ravens team and if the Steelers drop this one at home it will be a bitter defeat. Good news Steelers Nation. There will be mistletoe above Heinz Field at the end of this one. Steelers 24, Ravens 21.
Reason For The Season
The Spin would be remiss without taking this time of the season to thank all of my good friends at Steelers Depot, both my fellow writers, and those who take the time to read what we write. Then, of course, I want to express my tremendous gratitude for the players, coaches and the Rooneys for more making our Sundays through the years so entertaining. It’s a blessing to be part of Steelers Nation. Above all, remember the reason for the season and…Merry Christmas to one and all.