Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers were in a tougher spot to start the season, Sunday night’s game certainly felt as though it meant more to the Baltimore Ravens, who had lost three consecutive games to the Steelers and had not been to the playoffs in years. They made that pretty clear after the game.
Head Coach John Harbaugh was asked after the game if this particular victory meant more than an ordinary game, and after initially trying to conceal his emotion and denying it, he admitted with a laugh, “yes, yes it does”.
Love this answer from #Ravens coach John Harbaugh. Coachspeak would’ve been to say each year is a new year, each game counts the same, blah, blah. Instead, he was honest – and showed why his team was so focused, detailed and disciplined tonight. pic.twitter.com/MJsjBQi3gq
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) October 1, 2018
“We were here two years ago. We played our hearts out on Christmas Day and we played a very good football game and we got beat by six inches in the end”, he said. Came up here last year, played our hearts out again on that field and it’s final, two wins, and who loses the game?”.
It’s true that the Steelers have had the better of the series lately, but it wasn’t long ago that it was Pittsburgh that doesn’t get a win to save their lives against the Ravens. Baltimore won five straight games, including a playoff game, leading up to the recent turn of fortune.
“I’m some ways this can be the end” of the Ravens being the number two to Pittsburgh”, Harbaugh said, “but it’s also the beginning in terms of where we are going from here, so yeah, it’s a pretty special win”. The victory pushed them to 3-1 on the season, tied for the best record in the division.
It’s worth remembering that this is a team that has failed to make the playoffs in each of the past three seasons, and in four of the past five. They posted an overall 40-40 record over the last five seasons, and in each of the past two years, they were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 17 in gut-wrenching fashion.
There has been a certain added humility surrounding the Ravens and Harbaugh since then, when they went 5-11 in 2015. But they are starting to believe that they have righted the ship and are ready to resume their position as perennial playoff contenders.
Part of getting there was remaking their offensive skill position. The Ravens added three new wide receivers—their top targets—in free agency in John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead, and they have been producing. Brown has 338 yards and three touchdowns, while Crabtree and Snead are both close to 200 yards with a touchdown apiece.
Meanwhile, they have not one, not two, but three tight ends with over 100 receiving yards in Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams, and rookie Mark Andrews, and they figure to see the debut of first-round pick Hayden Hurst for their next game.
Baltimore never seems quite sure of itself until it manages to beat Pittsburgh. now 3-1 with a win in the holster, expect to see more swagger going forward. The next opportunity for the Steelers to shut their mouths is November 4 in Baltimore.