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Ravens face season-defining game against Steelers
The Baltimore Ravens are facing a season-defining game against their biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in Week 9 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Baltimore is 4-4 and in third place in the AFC North with a critical stretch ahead. The Ravens likely need to go 6-2 over the second half of the season to end a three-year playoff drought.
The challenge starts with first-place Pittsburgh, which is riding a three-game winning streak.
"They're playing really well," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said about the Steelers. "They're not giving up the big plays like they did a little more earlier in the year. They've tightened up that part of it. They've talked about that. I've seen that. To me, they're playing Steeler football in that sense. They're playing hard defensively. They've made big plays on offense."
After a bye, the Ravens then take on the Bengals who thoroughly beat them in Week 2. If the Ravens fall out of playoff contention by Week 11, the future of Harbaugh, quarterback Joe Flacco and several other aging veterans could be in jeopardy for 2019.
The 36-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers last week was especially glaring because the Ravens looked completely unprepared.
The Ravens' vaunted Ravens defense, which entered the game against Carolina ranked first for fewest yards (280.6) and fewest points (14.4) allowed, was picked apart by quarterback Cam Newton. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 219 yards with a pair of touchdowns. Newton also ran for a 12-yard score that provided a 33-14 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
Harbaugh took full responsibility for the debacle in Charlotte, admitting his team was completely dominated in every facet of the game.
"We just didn't have it," Harbaugh said. We weren't there in terms of what we needed to do - coaching, playing, it starts with me. It's on my shoulders completely. I'll take responsibility for it. ... We just didn't click in anything. We weren't good in any area. There was nothing we did well and that starts with me - the coach. I mean that's where it belongs, so put it on me and then move forward and get ready for Pittsburgh."
Baltimore should have some confidence heading into the showdown against Pittsburgh. The Ravens thoroughly dominated them 26-14 in Week 4 at Heinz Field.
However, the stakes are much higher this time around. The Steelers would like nothing more than to knock their rival out of playoff contention.
"It's a big game for us," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "It's a division game. It's a road game. It's Baltimore. Pick one, or all of the above. We have respect for this rivalry and our participation in it, and we're preparing with that in mind."
SERIES HISTORY: 46th regular-season meeting. Steelers lead series, 24-21. In Week 4, the Ravens shut out the Steelers in the second half en route to a 26-14 win at Heinz Field, snapping a three-game losing streak in the series. Baltimore limited Pittsburgh to 284 total yards (only 19 rushing), including just 47 yards in the second half. Quarterback Joe Flacco was 28 of 42 for 363 yards the most ever by a Raven vs. Pittsburgh and had a 109.5 passer rating.