Steeler Nation has been abuzz since the six-time Super Bowl champions knocked off the New England Patriots, 25-17, last Sunday. The win vaulted the Steelers to the top of the AFC standings. For a week at least. They'll try to stay on top of the conference and AFC North standings this weekend when they welcome the rival Baltimore Ravens to town for the teams' second meeting of the 2011 season.
Steelers fans need no reminder of what happened in the first matchup on Kickoff Weekend. Baltimore thrashed Pittsburgh, 35-7, the most lopsided loss of the Mike Tomlin era. The Ravens racked up 385 yards of offense on 61 plays (6.3 yards/play), were efficient on third down (7-of-16) and forced seven turnovers (four fumbles, three interceptions). It was a terrible performance for Ben Roethlisberger, who accounted for five of the seven giveaways. Big Ben needed a few more weeks after the embarrassing loss to really find his groove, but in his past four outings, Roethlisberger has been spectacular. He's completed 98-of-146 passes (67.1 %) for 1,154 yards, 11 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. We'll see if his efforts during the four-game winning streak is enough to earn him AFC Offensive Player of the Month honors for October.
Baltimore is coming off a wild and crazy Week 8 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Trailing 24-3 at the half, Baltimore stormed back to win, 30-27, thanks to three second half touchdowns by Ray Rice. The Ravens are now 5-2, having lost in Week 7 at Jacksonville, and in Week 2 at Tennessee. Hopefully the Steelers will hand them their third loss away from home this coming Sunday.
The big developments this week are the statuses of LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, the Steelers' dynamic pass rushing linebacker duo. Harrison was reportedly on his way back to the lineup after missing the previous four outings following surgery to repair broken bones near his eye. Turns out those reports were premature, and that Harrison will be shelved for at least one more week before returning, and perhaps even three weeks if he sits out the Week 10 matchup at Cincinnati prior to the bye week. Woodley, meanwhile, is out with hamstring injury sustained in the second half of the Patriots win. That's particularly unfortunate news for the Steelers as No. 56 had been terrorizing opponents as of late. Woodley registered two more sacks in Week 8, giving him 7.5 in his last four games and 9 total for the season, tops in the AFC.
We'll have full preview coverage of both teams throughout the week as the Steelers try to stay hot and on top of the standings this coming Sunday. For more Steelers analysis and fan discussion, make Behind the Steel Curtain a part of your regular reading rotation.