There was no rest for the weary as the Steelers’ coaches were back at it on Tuesday morning, preparing for Sunday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field.
The Ravens are 7-2, one game up on the 6-3 Steelers in the AFC North. But both teams could have 0-15 records and you would still get the same kind of battle that is expected this week.
“It’s Ravens’ week for us,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “This is going to be an awesome game. It always is. They are a talented bunch as they are perennially. They are a very good football team.”
The Ravens might be without their emotional leader on defense in Ray Lewis, who is on the injured reserve-designated for return list, but they certainly aren’t hurting for talent there.
“They still have some guys that have historically been issues for us,” said Tomlin. “Haloti Ngata is a guy that has created issues for us in the past and anyone else that suits up against him. He is tough to deal with. Terrell Suggs is back in action. He has had big games against us in the past. Ed Reed kills everyone.”
Reed continues to be a thorn in the side of opposing offenses with three interceptions so far this season, while cornerback Cary Williams leads the team with four.
“Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Cary Williams are all playing really good football for them. These are guys that have grown in their program and have been playing for them for a number of years,” said Tomlin. “They are familiar names to us but might not be familiar to others. When I watch them on tape I see the emergence of this group and their ability to deliver crucial plays for them. They step up when needed.”
Another player who has stepped up this year is quarterback Joe Flacco, the AFC’s seventh leading passer. Flacco has completed 186 passes for 2,331 yards and 13 touchdowns, while spreading the ball around to prime targets Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, and Torrey Smith, as well as Ray Rice who is a threat in the air but primarily on the ground.
“They are continuing to grow on offense and mature with their quarterback,” said Tomlin. “The offense runs through Joe Flacco. They do a lot of no-huddle. They have a lot of autonomy for him, and rightfully so. He’s a great decision maker. He spreads the ball around to a variety of guys. He does a nice job of highlighting the talents of people.”
It all boils down to a classic battle to stay in the race in the AFC North, and the bottom line this week is this game is not going to be one for the faint of heart.
“More than anything, we understand what this matchup is all about,” said Tomlin. “It’s about physicality and playing good, hard-nosed football. We expect them to do that, and we better be prepared to do it.”