Steelers point/counterpoint: Next up are hated Ravens
Steelers columnist John Harris and beat writer Scott Brown trade insight and the occasional insult as they discuss the Steelers throughout the season. Next up for the Steelers after a 24-13 win over the Bengals are the hated Ravens.
Brown: John, forget what ramifications a victory by the Steelers would have on the AFC North race. Simply based on how badly the Ravens beat them twice last season, I'd say a win by the Steelers Monday night would easily be their most significant victory of the season. There has to be some psychology at work when your despised archrival absolutely whips you. If it happens again to the Steelers, on a national stage no less, I have to believe the Ravens will have gotten into their heads.
Harris: The Ravens were the only opponent that not only outplayed the Steelers last season, but also manhandled them physically. Twice. Offensively, Willie Parker couldn't run and Ben Roethlisberger couldn't pass. Defensively, the Steelers made Air McNair appear five years younger. It's important that the Steelers reverse that trend and take it to the Ravens. They need to show right off the bat they can run on Ray Lewis and Co. and deliver some big hits of their own when the Ravens have the ball.
Brown: Great, the one thing I enjoy less than paying my mortgage is agreeing with you but you are right about establishing the run. This is a huge game for the offensive line. It needs to show it can control the line of scrimmage against a physical front, and the Steelers have to prove they can run the ball on anybody, not just on also-rans. Baltimore would be a great place to start.
Harris: Baltimore isn't Baltimore, at least not the Ravens we remember from last season. The Ravens have lost at Cleveland and Buffalo, so I think we can throw the so-called intimidation factor out the window. Like you said, the Steelers need to line up and blow the Ravens off the ball. They need to create running lanes for Parker and be able to keep Ben's jersey clean without using max protection. I'm not worried about the Steelers' defense because the Ravens' offense isn't scaring anyone these days. If the Steelers control the ball, they'll win.
Brown: The Ravens have an offense• Wow, you learn something new every day. I agree that the defense lost something with the departure of Adalius Thomas but it's still plenty good. As for keeping Ben's jersey clean, he has done a pretty good job of that this season with his scrambling though I'm not sure I want him running around the way he has been if I'm the Steelers coaches. As good as he is when he is on the move, Ben will occasionally force things, and the veteran Ravens' defense feasts on such mistakes. Then again, I don't know if I want Ben staying longer than two Mississippi in the pocket if I'm the Steelers coaches considering the Ravens sacked him 14 times last season. Yeah, smashing them up front and running Parker is the best way for the Steelers to go.
Harris: If I'm not mistaken, Ben got rid of the ball quicker against Cincinnati. If he didn't locate his primary target, he immediately went to his secondary receiver. Good for him, and good for the Steelers. Now if he can just avoid the critical turnover against the Ravens, who whipped up on him something fierce a year ago. It's only natural that he might be slightly apprehensive going against the Ravens' front seven, but I'd be shocked if we saw a repeat of what happened in 2006.
Brown: No question Roethlisberger is a different quarterback than the ones the Ravens tormented last season. Will he try to do too much to show as much to Ray Lewis and the fellas• That is the question I have. If Ben plays within himself and the Steelers are able to establish some semblance of a running game, they'll be tough to beat. The only way I think the Ravens win is if their defense forces turnovers and gives Baltimore's offense a couple of short fields.
Harris: I look at the Steelers the same way I did the Ravens last year. Everything seems to be falling in place for the Steelers in the AFC North. Last year the Ravens could do no wrong. Now they're aging and banged-up and anything but unbeatable. I guess that's why they call it the NFL -- not for long. Things can change in a hurry.
Brown: Patriots or Colts on Sunday? Harris: Colts, 41-38.