Steelers must overcome past demons at Ravens


Although a playoff berth looks likely for the Steelers, the team must first focus on exercising their past demons in Baltimore and not fall victim to this trap game.

Someone had to say it.

Even though the Ravens are having an uncharacteristically bad season, the Steelers cannot simply coast into Sunday’s game expecting a victory. If recent history has taught Pittsburgh anything, it’s that this game won’t come easy.

With a 4-10 record, Baltimore’s season is finished. The playoff roster from a year ago has been decimated. Season-ending injuries to Steve Smith, Joe Flacco and Justin Forsett have left the Ravens offense to a whirlpool of backups and has-beens. Baltimore has rotated between Matt “pick-six” Schaub and Jimmy “I was good at Notre Dame” Clausen at quarterback since Flacco’s injury in week 11. As of this writing, it’s unclear as to who will be the starter come Sunday.

Not surprisingly, the results have been ugly. The Ravens have dropped three straight, combining for 33 total points in those games. Their eviscerated defense gave up 34 points to the Chiefs last week alone. Heck, this is the same Ravens defense that allowed Josh McCown to throw for 457 yards earlier in the season. 

Injuries galore. Dysfunction on both sides of the ball. Not even a glimmer of the postseason. Behold, the 2015 Ravens. Surely, this contest should serve as a mere appetizer for the Steelers on their path to the playoffs, right?

Yes. Key word being should.

I get it. The Steelers prolific offense against this porous Ravens defense is an utterly one-sided affair. Mike Vick is now an afterthought, as is Josh Scobee, two men who helped gift-wrap the Ravens 23-20 win at Heinz Field in early October. Everything is seemingly in Pittsburgh’s favor.

This is precisely the problem, though. No team manages to flop under ideal circumstances quite like the Steelers. Whether it’s Todd Haley getting too arrogant with his play calls or the defense forgetting how to stop the run, Pittsburgh loves nothing more than falling into traps.

Just look to last year, when the Steelers fell to the Buccaneers, Browns, Jets (they were pitiful then) and Saints. One of Tampa’s two wins in 2014 came at the hands of the Steelers. Cleveland’s Brian Hoyer movement lit up following the Browns upset of Pittsburgh. The team crumbled in New York against… wait for it… MIKE VICK. The Saints marched into Heinz Field and torched the Steelers defense, ultimately winning 35-32.

Harping back on the previous year is cheap, sure. But history has a strange way of repeating itself, as the Steelers know too well.

The Ravens have all the motivation in the world to play spoiler. For Baltimore, Sunday is essentially their playoffs. Handing the Steelers a glaring loss would not only complete the season sweep, but also hamper Pittsburgh’s Wild Card chances. Steelers-Ravens is always a slugfest regardless, even if the magnitude of the game isn’t at its usual level.

Next: Mike Mitchell's comeback

Fresh off of huge victories against the Bengals and Broncos, the Steelers have no excuse to lose in Baltimore this week. Really, it will be disappointing if Pittsburgh doesn’t win by at least two scores. A Super Bowl hopeful against the Ravens’ B-team has no business being a nail-biter.

For the love of God, stick to the basics, Coach Tomlin.