Steelers: Ravens rivalry makes them better


The Pittsburgh Steelers got a harsh reminder of an old NFL truth this week at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens: division rivals don’t care what your plans are or how talented your roster is, they’re coming to get you.

It may be hard to swallow at the moment for the Steelers and their fans, but their rivalry with the Ravens is ultimately a good thing that will make them a stronger and more competitive team in the long run.

Take a look around the box scores from Sunday’s NFL games and you will see several examples of great teams getting embarrassed by division rivals that were supposed to be far inferior.

Thanks to a sudden onset of temporary insanity from head coach Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots got humbled by the New York Jets in overtime.

The Carolina Panthers came into Week 16 undefeated to face an Atlanta Falcons team they crushed 38-0 a few weeks ago and were beaten by a determined defenses and some heroics by Julio Jones.

Finally, the Seattle Seahawks were favored by nearly two touchdowns against the St. Louis Rams at home, and they were clobbered on the offensive line all afternoon and were beaten for the second time this year by a team that always seems to get up for them (if for nobody else.)

What’s the one thing that these three humbled teams have in common? They’re all Super Bowl contenders with a chance to go deep into the playoffs this year. Everybody wants to beat them. Everybody hates them. Does that sound familiar at all? The Steelers are in the same club.

Just as the Jets have always been there to check the Patriots’ priviledge no matter how long the odds, the Ravens provide a serious opponent every time they take the field, regardless of where they are in the standings or what month it is. Having stubborn division rivals helped mold the Seahawks, Panthers and Patriots into the monsters they are now, and the same goes for the Steelers.

In a September game, the Ravens are there, all up in Ben Roethlisberger’s grill. In a frigid all-or-nothing battle in January, the Ravens are there, fighting for every inch of field until the clock reads zero.

You might recall earlier this year Baltimore upset Pittsburgh in overtime as well.

In other words, had the Steelers taken care of business against their greatest rivals this season, their record would be 11-4 and they’d be fighting for one of the AFC’s top two seeds. Now they’re hanging by a thread and no longer control their own destiny.

Next: Steelers vs. Browns: Tomlin Tuesday

This week it seemed the Steelers collectively forgot that you can never take division opponents lightly. They should be sending John Harbaugh a thank-you card for the reminder.