If anyone had any reservations that the Super Bowl Champion Steelers were going to make a run for the playoffs, all talk has been quickly put to rest following Sunday’s Ravens dominating 27-0 win in Baltimore. The Steelers, now 4-7, are dead in terms of a repeat shot at the Bowl in February, as even winning out, which seems unlikely, would only put them at 9-7, which will probably not be enough to even make it as the 6th seed in the AFC.
Talk will, and rightfully so, now turn to the Ravens, and all that they did yesterday in making the Steelers look more like a JV team, pounding them up and down the field for 60 minutes. The numbers that the Ravens defense were able to compile were staggering – 9 sacks for 73 yards, three Steeler first downs in the first half, six straight three-and-outs to start the game for Pittsburgh, two interceptions, and a fumble returned for a touchdown. The Steelers simply never stood a chance.
While Pittsburgh was being manhandled by the Ravens defense, the Baltimore offense was not too shabby against a solid Steelers D, going down the field on the opening series for a score, then putting up 10 more points in the second quarter to take a 17-0 lead at the half that might as well been 100-0. Jamal Lewis ran for a tough 66 yards on the Steelers D, and Steve McNair had a solid day throwing, going 18-for-24 for 140 yards and a score. The bigger thing is he did not make mistakes, and the Ravens offensive line never missed a beat against a Steelers defense that usually can make big plays with its blitzes and coverages.
Baltimore, as if there was any doubt, is now the class of the AFC North. They have cemented their place as the best team in the division with recent home wins over the Bengals and now the Steelers, and with a rematch on Thursday night against the Bengals on the slate this week, Baltimore, already up three games with five to play, has a shot to all but clinch with a win at Paul Brown Stadium. Not that doing so will be easy with a Bengals offense that has caught fire since a loss a few weeks back to the Ravens, but with the Baltimore defense playing like they did Sunday, they will be almost impossible to beat.
Give credit to Brian Billick for making what may go down as the move of his coaching career, and letting go of offensive coordinator Jim Fassel five weeks ago. All that the Ravens have done since then is go 5-0, and build what is now a lead just too big to overcome for the Bengals in the AFC North. Can the Ravens keep it turned on in the playoffs? If the defense plays like they did Sunday, I wouldn’t want to be seeing purple come January.