The Ravens are No Longer Among Steelers’ Chief Concerns
At 10-0 the Steelers have bigger turkeys to stuff.
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This will no doubt come off sounding like heresy to Steeler Nation, especially with another showdown looming against the hated Ravens, but for the Steelers, such confrontations are no longer as apocalyptic as they are critical.
The one coming up, now set for Wednesday afternoon, is neither.
It’s still big enough to get the blood boiling, but it’s also just another one in a succession of weekly endeavors leading the Steelers, hopefully, to even bigger ones down the road.
Truth be told, that’s been the case all along.
It’s just that now the big picture is much more recognizable, and what the Steelers insist has been the goal all along has come much more into focus.
When the season started the Ravens were the target, the bully on the block.
The Ravens were the 14-2 juggernaut.
The Ravens were the team that had swept the Steelers the previous season (even the Baltimore JVs had dominated the Steelers at 2019’s conclusion).
And the Ravens were the team the Steelers had to get through first and foremost before they could begin to contemplate making in back to the postseason and actually making some noise upon arrival.
Don’t look now, but the Ravens will show up at Heinz Field as the third-place team in the AFC North.
That doesn’t mean the Steelers should assume anything as it relates to the rematch against the Ravens, or the division championship (their lead is currently three games over second-place Cleveland), or even their subsequent hosting of the Washington Football Team.
But the Steelers could lose this one and the Ravens still wouldn’t be closer than they appear in the rearview mirror.
That being the case, it’s not too early to begin comparing and contrasting the Steelers’ game to the game that’s being played by the team to beat in the AFC.
That would still be Kansas City, the defending-Super Bowl champions.
And that process – this just in – has already begun.
Tight end Eric Ebron went there unsolicited this week when he was asked how a Steelers’ offense that has scored at least 24 points in every game can get even better.
“If we can’t score points every drive, like Kansas City did (Sunday) night; that’s our goal,” Ebron insisted. “We want to be an offense that, when we touch the football we can score at any point in time because there are offenses out there that can do such. And if we want to ultimately fulfill our purpose then we must do that.
“We’re not doing bad statistically but we want to do better and that’s just how it is.”
The Chiefs didn’t score on every possession on Sunday night, but the way Patrick Mahomes carved up the Raiders on Kansas City’s last-minute, game-winning drive, in particular, was a reminder to the Steelers and everyone else what it’s going to wrest the Lombardi Trophy from Kansas City’s grasp.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t thinking about the Chiefs specifically when he emerged from Sunday’s 27-3 victory in Jacksonville, but he wasn’t happy.
“We have to put more points on the board,” Roethlisberger insisted.
They will eventually if this all works out the way things are seemingly headed and the way the Steelers intend.
Better to figure out how to do that now and avoid the Christmas rush.
This doesn’t mean the week-to-week approach that’s served the Steelers so well so far this season has to be abandoned.
Nor does it suggest risking a repeat of the 2017 season, when the Steelers lost a postseason rematch at home against Jacksonville on the way to a much-anticipated rematch against New England in the AFC Championship Game.
The Steelers were accused of looking past the Jaguars back then.
And without question, they emerged with significant doses of egg on their faces due to what had been said by Le’Veon Bell and others in advance.
But what actually happened was the Steelers lost linebacker Ryan Shazier in December of 2017 and simply weren’t a very good defense in January of 2018.
It wasn’t what was said, it was their inability to tackle Leonard Fournette.
This time they’ve already lost linebacker Devin Bush, and have time on their side in continuing to figure out a way to work around his absence.
One of the ways to do that is to become the type of offense Ebron envisions, the kind that can trade haymakers with Kansas City.
They should judge themselves by that standard the rest of the way, much more than their relative effectiveness against the likes of the Browns, Colts, Bengals and, yes, even the Ravens.
The stated goal all along this season has been to stack wins while getting better every week in pursuit of the Super Bowl.
Left unsaid but at the same time understood is the need to eventually be good enough to beat the Chiefs.