The Pittsburgh Steelers played week 17 like they did not care about gaining the number three seed in the AFC. Instead they played like they were more than happy to play at home next Saturday night against one of the hottest teams in the league – the Jacksonville Jaguars. They will get their wish. The Steelers were beaten 27-21 by the rival Baltimore Ravens, but the bigger story is the fact they sat just about every key player, making sure they would be as close to 100 percent as possible for their Saturday playoff matchup.
“Ready or not, here we come,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “That’s the reality of it. We’re a 10-6 team, we won our division, we’ve got a home game versus the five seed and we look forward to preparing for that.” The Steelers held out QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Hines Ward, safety Troy Polamalu, and even kick returner Allen Rossum. Even with that, they rallied to only fall by six to a Ravens team that had lost a team record nine straight.
The Ravens, who wrap up the season at 5-11 after starting 3-2, were led by running back Musa Smith, who ran for 83 yards and a touchdown. Troy Smith, starting at QB for the Ravens, went 16-for-27 for 171 yards with a touchdown. The Ravens built a 27-7 lead in the third quarter before the Steelers rallied to score 14 points to make it a game. Backup QB Charlie Batch, who started for the Steelers, threw a late pick to seal the win for Baltimore.
Batch was 16-for-31 for 218 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Najeh Davenport, who will start as the teams feature back in the playoffs with Willie Parker out, ran for just 27 yards on 12 carries before leaving the game in the third quarter, giving way to Gary Russell. Davenport also rushed for a touchdown.
For the Ravens, despite ending the season on an up note, they will have plenty of questions to answer as 2007 is over. From a starting QB, to the issue of aging players, the team will need to address these issues and what direction they will want to go in as they get set to put a game plan forth for 2008.
The Steelers will go into Saturday night’s game hoping that they will have better luck against the Jags than the first time they played, as they were torched for over 400 yards by a Jags team that has won 6 of its last 8 games, including Sunday’s meaningless finale in Houston 42-28.