Making a change: Tonight's game against the Baltimore Ravens was by the NFL into the Sunday night window.
The game was changed from a 1 p.m. kickoff to an 8:20 p.m. kickoff. The game will air on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
This is the second game this season that the Steelers have had flexed.
NFL Flexible Scheduling Policy:
Flexible scheduling decisions for Sunday Night Football will be made on 12 days' notice for Weeks 5-14 and may be made on 6 days' notice for Weeks 15 and 17 if needed. Flexible scheduling for Monday Night Football does not begin until the 2023 season.
A look at player arrivals before the Steelers' Week 17 game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium
Physicality the key: Receiver Miles Boykin has played in his share of Steelers-Ravens games, and it came as no surprise to him that tonight's game at M&T Bank Stadium was flexed from a 1 p.m. kickoff to an 8:20 p.m. kickoff.
"I think anybody who has watched these games knows how fun they are, how physical they are, and how entertaining they are," said Boykin. "I think I leave that game every time, when I was there and when we played them here, every time I leave that game, I say dang, that was a game, whether we won or lost, that was a fun game. It's true football. Seeing it on primetime is what you want.
"If you aren't playing meaningful games in January, you aren't doing the right thing."
Boykin played his first three seasons in the NFL with the Ravens, signing with the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He understands the rivalry, a rivalry that features two teams with similar mindsets.
"I think it's the physicality both teams bring," said Boykin. "We have similar mindsets. We want to be the bullies. They want to be the bullies. That is AFC North ball. But when these two teams play against each other, it's two bullies playing against each other. That's what makes it so great.
"It's dominant style football we both play. We both have a chip on our shoulder every time we step on that field, and you see it clash."
Boykin understands one of the main reasons the game was flexed is the Steelers being in the playoff hunt, something that became a possibility after the team's post-bye turnaround. After starting the year 2-6, the black and gold are 5-2 after the bye.
"I think it speaks to our team's resilience," said Boykin. "How we started the season wasn't how we wanted to start. We reeled everybody back in, got locked in and have been playing better football every week since the bye.
"We are happy with what we are doing. We know we aren't a finished product yet and we're still getting better every single game. That's what we plan to do the last two games and it starts on Sunday night."
Accountability has been one of the biggest factors for the overall team performance, something that has come into play as the team has grown as one.
"It was holding each other accountable as a team," said Boykin. "Controlling what we can control. Doing what we know we are capable of doing and putting it out there on the field and being consistent in what we do. I think it showed up in a lot of ways. There are a lot of ways we can get better, but we are on the right track."
Stopping the run: It's a topic that has come up multiple times in the Steelers locker room this week, and it's going to be on the minds of the Steelers defense until kickoff.
In the last meeting against the Ravens the Steelers allowed 215 yards rushing, something uncharacteristic of their post-bye week play.
This week, they know the Ravens are going to want to keep it on the ground and they will be prepared.
"We want to shut it down," said linebacker Robert Spillane. "They have shown over the last few weeks they want to put their biggest, strongest, best run blockers on the field and get behind them and have them play a physical style of game. We're prepared to match that. We have been preparing all week, getting our guys together and coming up with a strong game plan and understanding that game plan.
"We didn't have our best performance last game against them. We lacked a little bit of understanding of what we wanted to get done. That is the good thing about playing these divisional matchups. You get a second crack at playing those same teams. We are really looking forward to this weekend."
To make the weekend perfect, they will have to stop the tandem of J.K. Dobbins, who rushed for 120 yards on 15 carries, an eight-yard average, in the first meeting, and Gus Edwards, who rushed for 66 yards. But they also have to be alert for quarterback Tyler Huntley, who is dangerous with his feet as well as his arm.
"I think it's more than two or three ends," said Spillane. "The fullbacks, tight ends, point of attack receivers that block. They buy into an 11-man run game and that includes the quarterback as well. When you have that type of offense, you have to be prepared to defend multiple runs, with many different types of offensive structures. I think we have done a good job this week of understanding what we have to get done."
Ready for primetime: The Steelers are playing on primetime for the second consecutive week after their game tonight against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium was flexed from a 1 p.m. start to an 8:20 p.m. kickoff.
Coach Mike Tomlin embraced the time change, knowing that shows the significance of the game.
"I think this is the tenth time that Harbs (Ravens Coach John Harbaugh) and I have played Sunday Night ball together," said Tomlin. "He's an awesome dance partner. They're an awesome dance partner. It's just good to be in a significant game.
"So, when I got the call the other night that the game was flexed, man, I didn't hate that. I love that. If your games are not getting flexed this time of year, you're not doing it right. You're not in significant ones. We don't run from that; we run to that.
"Although we do respect their environment and the hostility of that environment on Sunday Night Football, we're not going to hate the fact that we're there. We're going to embrace that and smile in the face of the adversity that those variables create."
Tomlin's approach and mindset is one that resonates with his players, who are happy to be playing in a game that means a lot in Week 17.
"I would agree," said defensive lineman Montravius Adams. "At the end of the day we have to win everything, every game we play no matter when it is. That is my mindset. We played this team before, and we are just trying to get this W."
Quarterback Kenny Pickett knows the key is no matter what time kickoff is, it's about focusing on the task at hand.
"We have to handle our business," said Pickett. "That's the first things first, and what we've got to do is get a win on Sunday night. So, that's everyone's main focus."
For cornerback Levi Wallace, getting flexed doesn't just mean the game is significant. It also means his family can watch him play for a second straight week.
"It's a blessing to be flexed, another primetime game two weeks in a row," said Wallace. "My family is in Arizona, so they have a good chance to see the game.
"It's pretty cool to get flexed. We just have to go out there and make the most of the opportunity we have. Especially against the Ravens. We know what type of game this is going to be. We have to be locked in and ready to dominate the game."
They had a bad day: Coach Mike Tomlin referred to it as 'a bad day' for the Steelers run defense, referring to the Week 14 game against the Baltimore Ravens, a 16-14 loss.
It's likely nobody in the Steelers locker room would argue with that.
"I think our run defense has been really solid over the second half of the year," said Tomlin. "It wasn't reflected in our play that day. There's nothing we can do about that. That tape's in the can. We're preparing for this tape that we're going to put out on Sunday night."
The Ravens won the meeting at Acrisure Stadium, putting up 215 yards rushing with J.K. Dobbins going for 120 yards on 15 carries, an eight-yard average.
It's a performance that still bugs defensive tackle Cameron Heyward.
"I didn't stay in my gap," said Heyward. "We didn't get off blocks as a group. And it's 16-14, and to end the game they need to win three downs and we didn't win those three downs and they were able to run the clock out.
"That weighs on me more than anything because we didn't give our offense another chance to go down there and win it."
Heyward knows in order to come out on top this week they have to shut down the tandem of Dobbins and Gus Edwards, who rushed for 66 yards in Week 14, but they also have to be alert for quarterback Tyler Huntley, who is dangerous with his feet as well as his arm.
"I think it's about them (Dobbins and Edwards), but don't get me wrong. Huntley's definitely part of the running game as well. Especially in the red zone," said Heyward. "I think they mix things up. You can look at the Atlanta game. There were some quarterback runs where he had a lot of success. In the Denver game, to win the game they got the two-point conversion with Huntley. I'm not discounting him. But that two-headed monster of Dobbins and Edwards really do a great job of falling forward with that big offensive line and we're looking forward to attacking them."
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