Steelers 39 – Ravens 38
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a number of holes on the defensive side that are not going away with Ryan Shazier done for the year and boy was it a putrid defensive performance in Sunday night’s 39-38 come from behind win, but this group in all three phases week after week has turned special in their ‘will’ to win close games.
It’s a trait that championship level teams have to have and the Steelers have it.
Securing an eighth straight win to improve to 11-2 on the season, it was the Steelers third straight win by three points or less and the fifth time in six games they won by five points or less.
This team just knows how to find ways to win close games and it’s put them in position to control their destiny on having home-field advantage.
Last night Pittsburgh looked headed to falling to 10-3 and in precarious position from the standpoint that a loss next week to New England would close the door on home-field, but also put them in jeopardy of not getting a first-round bye as Jacksonville (9-4) is for real and owns the head-to-head tie breaker.
Now with three games to play (vs New England, At Houston, vs Cleveland), it’s hard to imagine any scenario where the Steelers are not the first or second seed in the AFC.
Previous Steelers’ teams of the past few years would have found a way to lose a few of these recent nail-biters and while this group is more talented than almost all AFC teams, what they have now is amazing mental toughness.
ELITE BIG BEN IS BACK
After a Ravens D that hadn’t allowed a 300 yard passer all season, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards and two touchdowns in becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 500 yards passing three times.
Since Mike Tomlin influenced some key changes to the offense — starting with the Tennessee game that was predicated to Roethlisberger’s strengths, elite Ben Roethlisberger has returned. —
The zip and velocity he has on his throws is something else right now and the accuracy that was lacking most of the season has also returned.
Out of nowhere Roethlisberger is now 1st in the NFL in yards (3,744) and 4th in touchdowns (24).
Roethlisberger threw the ball 66 times vs Baltimore, completing 44 passes, and something just changed four weeks ago for Roethlisberger once the game plan went back to him winging the ball around.
After Roethlsiberger’s debacle in a week 5 loss to Jacksonville where he was picked 5 times and threw the ball 55 times, the offensive game plan started going away from Roethlisberger and understandably.
Over the next four games where Pittsburgh scored 20 points or less in three of the four, Roethlisberger’s attempts were 25, 24, 31, 31.
The Tennessee game might have changed the Steelers season from the standpoint that it got Roethlisberger back to playing at a top-5 level he was accustomed too in the past.
Going into the Titans game, Roethlisberger had 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions through nine games.
Since then Roethlisberger has 12 touchdowns and 3 interceptions over his last four games with 45, 45, 40 and 66 attempts during that span.
In letting Roethlisberger get back to being a gunslinger the past four weeks, the Roethlisberger/Antonio Brown combination has become unstoppable.
Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards vs the Ravens, including two big gains in the fourth quarter that led to the come back win. He was spectacular again in delivering the win. He just can’t be covered, especially in tight areas along the sideline when everyone knows he’s getting the ball.
Brown is averaging 156.8 receiving yards over his last four games and if he has a monster game against the Patriots (Are giving up just 158.0 receiving yards over its past three games) that leads to a Steelers victory, his MVP candidacy starts becoming a strong reality.
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