This past Monday night the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals faced off in one of the ugliest games of the year. In fact, it’s probably been the hardest game to watch since the same teams met in the playoffs two seasons ago.
The Steelers’ defense took a huge blow when they lost linebacker Ryan Shazier to an ugly back /spinal injury. Shazier was carted off the field and immediately rushed to a hospital after he told team doctors he had no feeling in his legs. Pittsburgh’s 2014 first-round pick has progressed slowly this week and is showing some signs of improvement, but his timetable remains unknown. The thought now is that he will never play football again.
Shazier wasn’t the only player to be carted off in Monday nights game. Steelers receiver Juju Smith-Schuster may be new to the NFL and AFC North but he didn’t have a problem delivering a huge hit to a defenseless Vontaze Burfict. The hit was followed by a blatant taunt and Burfict had to be carted off the field. After the game, there was plenty of talk and controversy surrounding both injuries and the overall roughness of the game.
With a game against Baltimore on the horizon, the media questioned a few Steelers players about the difference between playing the Bengals and Ravens. Ben Roethlisberger has faced the Ravens many times and he had some interesting words about the rivalry. “The difference between this game and the Cincinnati game is these two teams — us and Baltimore — there’s always a respect involved in it.”
Lost in all of this commotion was the Steelers picking up their seventh straight win thanks to yet another game-winning field goal. Pittsburgh’s schedule gave some Ravens fans a reason to be cautiously optimistic, but after Monday’s game the Steelers are just one win (or Ravens loss) away from locking up the division.
Technically, the Ravens still have a chance to win the division, but they need to win out, and the Steelers need to lose all of their remaining games. This makes Sunday night’s game a little interesting from a playoff perspective, but it is nowhere near as critical as last years infamous Christmas game.
In many ways, this should be a relief for Ravens fans. It’s disappointing that a division title is practically out of reach, but we’ve been anticipating that for weeks now. Instead, fans should be happy that Sunday’s game will not make or break the team’s playoff chances.
Last Meeting: The Ravens hold a 6-4 advantage in the last ten games against their division foe, but the Steelers have won the last two matchups. Pittsburgh’s 26-9 win over the Ravens earlier this season marked their first at M&T Bank Stadium since 2012 and Roethlisberger’s first since 2010. The Steelers are 7-5 when hosting the Ravens since 2008.
Notes on Steelers:
- Juju Smith-Schuster will miss this Sunday’s game after receiving a one-game suspension for his illegal hit on Burfict. After the game, the rookie seemed to regret the viciousness of the hit but his teammate, but Antonio Brown had a different opinion. Schuster appealed the suspension but the league was quick to uphold it.
- The Steelers’ current seven-game win streak is tied for the teams longest since 2004 when they finished the season with 14 straight wins for a 15-1 record.
Notes on Ravens:
- It’s been a rough week for cornerback Jimmy Smith. After suffering an achilles injury in Sunday’s win against Detroit, Smith was handed a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. The good news is that Smith can serve his suspension during the final four weeks of the 2017 season so it will have no impact on his eventual return next year.
- After Smith’s injury, the Ravens now have over $44 million invested in injured or released players. This makes up over a quarter of the $167 salary cap.
- Mike Wallace has averaged over 54 yards-per-game and over 13 yards-per-reception when playing against his former team.
- Just how much of an impact has Brandon Williams had on the run defense? The stats show that his presence has helped greatly. Without Williams, the Ravens gave up an average of 169.5 rushing yards a game. When he has suited up, the team has given up just 84.25 yards a game.
When: Sunday, Dec. 10, 8:30 pm
Where: Heinz Field – Pittsburgh, PA
Commentators: Gerry Sandusky, Jarret Johnson, Stan White
Image Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette