Don't even bother with the 24-hour rule for this one. It really doesn't deserve even that much.
After all, it was just a visit from the Kansas City Chiefs, a team on pace to become the most self-destructive in the history of the National Football League. The surest way for a team to go about the business of beating itself on a consistent basis is to turn the football over, and these Chiefs are prolific.
Beating the Chiefs needed to happen and it did – by a 16-13 final in overtime – and as soon as the outcome was official it was time to focus on the Baltimore Ravens and what that game is going to mean.
Turning the focus immediately toward the Ravens made sense from a psychological standpoint in that the Steelers had been swept in this series last season, but also in terms of the practical because while Baltimore played a 1 p.m. Sunday game at home, the Steelers played an 8:30 p.m. Monday game, which represented an approximate 31-hour edge in healing time for the Ravens in advance of a soiree that always turns into a bar brawl.
And that healing time deficit now is a significant factor in light of the right shoulder injury of unknown severity sustained by Ben Roethlisberger early in the second half. To say nothing of the concussion that Ryan Clark may have sustained late in the fourth quarter.
For the Steelers, winning the division long has been considered a first step toward a successful season, and that simply cannot happen without dealing with the Ravens. In 2008 a regular season series sweep brought the third meeting – in the AFC Championship Game – back to Pittsburgh and the Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XLIII. Two years later both teams finished with 12-4 records but the Steelers got to be home for the conference playoffs because of a split with the Ravens and a better record within the division. Last season it was the opposite, when a series sweep by the Ravens sent the Steelers to Denver in the Wild Card Round even though both teams again finished with 12-4 records.
Joe Flacco is coming off a big afternoon against the Raiders, and while he's going to be away from the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium he will be going to a venue where he has enjoyed recent success. Whatever infirmities Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs have, they'll play their best against the Steelers. It'll be a nasty three-plus hours out on the grass, guaranteed.
The Steelers get to come into it with a 6-3 record because of what they did to the Chiefs here last Monday night, but what will frame the rest of their 2012 season is going to be what happens against the Ravens next Sunday night.
This one was necessary. The next one is important, and it may have to be accomplished without Roethlisberger.
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