In the closing seconds of a game that was as ever back and forth as you could get between two teams, Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham (Mr. Dependable, these days) booted a 42 yarder through the uprights to defeat the Ravens as the clock struck :00. It was a sweet sweet win to be sure. Both teams traded scores, traded blows, and even traded turnovers in one of the more grittier performances between these two bitter rivals. The Steelers ended the Ravens 15 game win streak on their home turf. In what should have been a playoff clinching moment for the Ravens, instead became a defining moment for the Steelers and their divisional hopes in 2012.
The impact this game has on the rest of the season is pretty huge. First and foremost it should give these Steelers a huge shot in the arm of confidence and positive juju riding into the home stretch of the regular season. Prior to Sunday’s game against the Ravens, many were comparing the Steelers of 2012 to the Steelers of 2009 – a team that self imploded mid-season and finished with a record of 9-7 and missed the playoffs. I believe that tonight brought them back to their fortitude and winning ways of 2005 when they got hot at the end of the season to make the playoffs and win Super Bowl XL.
The Steelers showed so much resiliency against the Ravens. It seemed as though fortune would begin to finally smile on the Steelers when Ryan Clark intercepted a softball from Joe Flacco early in the game. But things turned around quickly, however when the Steelers turned the ball over 42 seconds later. The Ravens scored 14 points off of the Steelers three turnovers – a stat that has killed them in the games in which they play down to their competition. But, this time would be different. This time the team kept themselves collected and traded blow after blow with the Ravens. They never gave up and showed, what I believe, what the 2012 Steelers are truly made of.
So now what? The Steelers are still two games behind Baltimore with four games to go. Is it realistic to say that the Steelers can still win the division by Week 17? Not only is it mathematically possible, but I say that it is entirely plausible. The Steelers played tonight like the division was on the line, and they should continue to do so until their final game against Cleveland. If not for the division, they will be competing for their playoff lives since the Indianapolis Colts (8-4) and the Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) continue to hang in there each game and win. So just how can the Steelers still take the division by Week 17? Break out the green visor, the ol’ adding machine, and a bit of scotch on the rocks….
Baltimore can lose last 3 of 4… and what that means.
Baltimore has games against the Redskins, Broncos, Giants, and Bengals. Those last three teams have winning records – two of which are on solid winning streaks. The Broncos, no doubt are the toughest of those four. The Giants will be tough because the Ravens defense has certainly gone soft this season, and Eli Manning can fully light them up. RGIII is always dangerous and could also rack up the score against Baltimore. The Bengals have hung tough all season and just might beat the Ravens while in Cincy. If the Ravens lose 3 of 4 or more, the Steelers (were they to win 3 of 4 or all 4) would take the division.
What about a tied record?
If the Steelers and Ravens end up tied by the end of Week 17, the tiebreaker goes to divisional standings, then conferences because the teams split the head to head (see why this recent win was so important?!). The Ravens must lose to the Bengals in order to make the divisional records a tie. If the Ravens beat the Bengals, then the Ravens will take the division with a one game lead in the divisional records – boy would that ever make that Browns loss even more bitter. Let’s say they lose to the Bengals making the divisional record a tie, then it goes to AFC conference record. Well, the Ravens are 8-2 in the AFC vs the Steelers 4-5. The Ravens only face two more AFC opponents (Broncos, Bengals). Should they lose, that takes them to 8-4. They will beat the Steelers in the AFC records by one. So the Ravens get the division if there were a tie. (F’ing Browns!)
Gotta get’em all
So it looks as if the Steelers will need to make sure they end up with one more in the win column than the Ravens. As each week ticks by, the probabilities get tighter and tighter. Fortunately, the team is at home three of their last four. The Steelers will need to play top notch football to beat the Cowboys and the Bengals. They should have a bit of an easier time with the Chargers at home and the Browns at home. The Cowboys are so up and down it will be hard to figure out what Tony Romo will arrive at game time. And, the Steelers will need to be careful that they don’t fall into a trap against the Bengals or the Browns. It’s still a fairly tough amount of obstacles to overcome to get the division – but I’m beginning to believe these Steelers just might have it in themselves to make it happen. And, if they are to stumble along the way, as long as they are playing their heart out each week, they should at least come away with a Wild Card slot…. and we could have 2005 all over again.
There are a few promising things that came out of the Baltimore game worth pointing out:
– the newly tooled offensive line was IM.PRESS.IVE. Batch was sacked a couple of times, but they gave him tons of time in the pocket. They also helped keep the defense from busting up run plays in the back field. The majority of runs went for positive yards, and they gave Dwyer some nice holes at times.
– Ike Taylor is probably out for a couple weeks if not longer with his ankle injury (that’s bad). The good coming out of that is the fact that Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown stepped up BIG against the Ravens offense. Allen had a huge first half against Boldin and Smith. He did get burned once on a TD and ended up getting a pass interference call on another play. But overall, these two youngins did a great job filling in. It gives me hope for this secondary’s future and that Carnell Lake is doing a helluva job coaching.
– Jason Worlids is a beast and I have no worries with LaMarr Woodley being out for a while. ‘Nuff said.
Well fans, what do you think of this win? What do you think of the playoff picture thus far?