Reporting Rob Long
I love rivalries in sports. If you’re a real program in high school or college or a legit organization, you’ve given your fans a reason to circle the calendar, because you have a rival.
In Baltimore, regardless of what Ryan Clark says, the Pittsburgh Steelers is a rivalry game. It’s a rivalry game because it’s typically for the divisional title and the two have recent post-season history. That, topped with the fact that it’s easily the hardest hitting, most physical two games on the NFL schedule every year, it’s silly to suggest anything else.
However, Clark is absolutely correct in saying that the Steelers have had the Ravens’ number, especially with Ben Roethlisberger in the line-up. That’s what makes the fans crazy and that’s why “Beating Pittsburgh” seems to be number one on the wish list. It seems fans forget about the other games on the schedule.
After beating the Steelers, beating the Jets is now second. You seldom even hear talk of beating Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts now. From my chair, I’ve questioned whether the fans would consider it a wash if the team was able to go 3-0 against those two teams but not make the play-offs.
No, I’m not foolish, I know the Ravens fan base desperately want another championship, but I don’t hear about how the Ravens measure up against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. Those two teams make up for a quarter of the team’s schedule.
Can the Ravens beat the NFC West teams on the schedule like St. Louis, Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco? Can they have a winning record against the AFC South? Those are eight games that the Ravens have to build to a better than .500 record in. To add to that, they go to San Diego to take on the Chargers in December.
When I look at the Ravens potential roster, I don’t have the same fear that is expressed on the radio from others. I would like to believe Coach John Harbaugh is preparing his team for a 16-game season. I remember when there was so much hype before the game last season against the New York Jets. It was as if the season for on the line in early September. The Ravens went on to win that game, but it was seemingly forgotten by season’s end.
Thankfully, the team has four pre-season games before they even get there. With the recent signing of Ricky Williams, maybe they’ve just picked up another piece that they’ll need. No, I didn’t say weapon, just another piece. Williams’ days of being considered weaponry are over. However, he can be serviceable and still productive in his role as a back-up.
Let’s look at this season as a whole and not just what the team does against two teams. Yes, the Jets and the Steelers will probably have something to say about who wins the AFC, but you have to get to the play-offs first.
Follow Rob on Twitter: @RobLongSports