I’ve said all week, as I’m sure many others have as well, you couldn’t have asked for a better pairing of match-ups on the AFC side of the ledger to determine inclusion in the conference championship. With a rubber match in both the East and North divisions, hang Roman numeral III’s on both games and declare them instant classics. What’s more, regardless of either outcome, the title game will be a rematch too. To that end, the Pats must feel the best at 3-1 against the field and boasting a win over everyone. The Ravens and Jets are both 2-2 in those match-ups, with the Ravens having beaten the Jets and Steelers, and the Jets beating the Steelers and Patriots. The Steelers at 1-3 have lost to everyone, and boast their lone win against the Ravens.
As it relates to the Ravens and Steelers side of things, one thing that I find interesting / fitting / improbable, is that this time around, for the first time this season, a Ravens and Steelers game will be more about who is playing than who isn’t.
In week 4 the Ravens beat the Steelers by 3 despite the absences of Ed Reed and Donte’ Stallworth, in a match-up defined by the glaring absence of Steelers starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, or either of their next 2 choices at QB for that matter. In their second match-up, in week 13, the Steelers returned the favor by 3, in a game in which the Ravens planned to account for the absence of Le’Ron McClain with lots of 2-tight end sets, and in which they quickly found themselves without the services of their best tight end in Todd Heap. For their part, the Steelers survived the game despite Roethlisberger getting banged up early (broken nose in addition to the foot injury he brought into the game), and the loss of Heath Miller to a vicious hit.
Not this time though. This time around, the Ravens and Steelers are both as healthy as they are likely going to be for the rest of this season. For one of them, Saturday will be the rest of this season. No doubt these two rivals will leave all that they have on the notoriously hazardous Heinz Field grass. For the one whose season continues, it’ll be time to pick up the pieces and look forward to another familiar opponent.