The Steelers looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL in their 31-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns, then just an average team in their 30-23 victory over the Houston Texans, then last weekend they put together the greatest offensive performance in Steelers history in their 51-34 upset of the Indianapolis Colts.
Steelers fans are now wondering what team will show up against arch rival division foe the Baltimore Ravens, 5-3.
The win put the Steelers in a tie with the Ravens for second place in the tough AFC North behind the Cincinnati Bengals who beat the Ravens, 27-24 last weekend to improve their record to 4-2-1.
While the Steelers and Ravens are doing battle the Bengals and Browns face two very weak teams in the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Colts led by Andrew Luck had the second best offense in the NFL coming into the game and they left it all on the field as they gave the Steelers all they could handle despite the greatest offensive performance in Steelers history. But the Steelers defense with Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau dialing up quarterback blitzes all night long still managed 400 yards on 26 of 45 passing with three touchdowns and two interceptions. The ground game was held in check primarily because the Colts had to play catch-up from the very beginning.
Ben Roethlisberger became the only quarterback to have two 500-yard games with 522 yards on a magnificent 40 of 49 night with 6 touchdowns. Even though veterans Antonio Brown had 10 catches for 133 yards, and two touchdowns, and Heath Miller 7 catches for 112 yards and one touchdown, it was the young receivers who made the difference with key catches in critical situations.
Le’Veon Bell had another solid all around game with 94 yards on 24 carries.
It was the same on defense. The veterans, James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Troy Polamalu, and Brett Keisel made the big plays but it was the youngsters on the front line who kept the pressure on Luck and made critical plays to keep the Colts out of the end zone.
But all that has to be put behind them this weekend when they face the Ravens.
Joe Flacco is having another outstanding season as he’s completed 173 passes in 279 attempts for 2049 yards and 14 touchdowns putting him right in the middle as far as quarterbacks effectiveness. His top receiver is former Carolina Panthers star Steve Smith who has 41 catches for 675 yards and 4 touchdowns. Torrey Smith, 18 catches for 308 yards, and Owen Daniels 27 catches for 275 yards are the other receivers. But the Ravens have a balanced attack even without Ray Rice, headed by Justin Forsett who has 571 yards on 104 carries and 3 touchdowns. He receives assistance from Lorenzo Taliaferro who has 226 yards on 51 carries. Forsett, like Bell and Rice, is an excellence receiver with 28 catches for 135 yards.
The Ravens defense much like the Steelers is not what they use to be but still one of the best in the league.
The Steelers big three of Roethlisberger, Brown and Bell are among the best in the NFL.
Roethlisberger has 2380 yards on 206 of 301 passing with 16 touchdowns. Brown has 60 catches and is second in the league in yards with 852. Heath Miller is among the leaders in tight ends with 387 yards on 34 catches. Bell is developing into one of the best all around backs in the league with 691 yards rushing on 141 carries, and an additional 395 yards on 42 receptions.
If the offensive line can continue to protect Ben the way they did against the Colts, while opening holes for the runners the Steelers should be able to beat the Ravens. But the defense will have to get better. Which means the youngsters on the line must continue to improve. But one thing is for sure Flacco is no Luck.
If the Steelers can get past the Ravens they then face the lowly New York Jets, 1-7 and the Tennessee Titans, 2-6. They could very easily be sitting at 8-3 going into their bye week.
Predictions for the AFC North: Steelers over the Ravens, the Bengals over the Jags and Cleveland over the Bucs.
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