The Steelers vs Ravens first played in 2009 with everything on the line. The last Steelers vs Ravens game determined a Super Bowl berth – and now this one could make or break their very playoff lives. The standing of the Steelers and Ravens has changed dramatically in just one month’s time. Both of them started out hot, with Super Bowl dreams, and now it’ll be a fight to get a wild card spot. Tonight’s first Steelers vs Ravens game of 2009 isn’t an elimination match, but it will put the loser in a deeper hole.
The Steelers are in even more desperate straits now, even though they have a better record than the Ravens. Just two weeks ago, Pittsburgh was on a massive roll at 6-2. Now they’ve lost two in a row, and have even lost Ben Roethlisberger for tonight with another concussion.
With second-stringer Charlie Batch also injured, Dennis Dixon, a third-stringer from Oregon, has to take the helms tonight. Dixon is being thrown right into the fire of the Steelers vs Ravens rivalry, with more on the line than both teams first thought.
This game was expected to determine the AFC Central leader by now. Instead, the Bengals still control the division – despite slipping up at Oakland – leaving Pittsburgh and Baltimore fighting for wild-card positions. The Ravens’ downfall has come more steadily, with a series of tough losses after a 3-0 start. The worst one may have been their 17-15 loss to the Colts last week, dropping Baltimore to .500.
The Ravens still have two games against the Steelers, and if they have any hope of the playoffs, they must win at least one. The Steelers vs Ravens rivalry officially became the fiercest in football last season, but it was a lopsided one, as Pittsburgh won all three games. Baltimore needs better luck tonight, or it may sink their season.
Pittsburgh has a bit more of a margin for error, but not by much. Dixon will have to be a game manager, like Roethlisberger was in his early years. But he doesn’t have much of a running game to lean on, and Ray Lewis and company should be blitzing all night.
If the first Steelers vs Ravens game of 2009 goes to Baltimore, then Pittsburgh suddenly goes from Super Bowl favorite to possibly missing the playoffs altogether. A win will at least hold them together until Roethlisberger comes back, although he will be more fragile than ever when he does.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore always hit each other hard, but with both their seasons on the line, the body count could be at record levels. The two arch-enemies resume their battle at 8:30 pm est in Baltimore, on NBC.
York Daily Record- “Ravens, Steelers renew rivalry with much at stake”
Baltimore Sun- “Ravens-Steelers Sunday night primer”