The Schmuck Stops Here Peter Schmuck's musings on the local and national sports scene

Schmuck: Steelers might look vulnerable, but Ravens need to raise their game again to win

Ravens receiver Mike Wallace apparently doesn’t own a rear-view mirror, because he completely dismissed the notion that last weekend’s resounding victory over the Detroit Lions will have a carryover effect in Sunday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Every week is different,’’ he said. “I don’t think we can worry about momentum. I just think it’s about what we’re going to do Sunday night. I don’t believe in that stuff. I believe in you line up on Sunday and you make plays that day. Last week is not going to help us. Three weeks ago is not going to help us. I don’t know about other guys, but I don’t believe in momentum.”

That’s too bad, because the Ravens will need to have everything going for them when they arrive at Heinz Field to face a team that is all but a lock to win the AFC North title and will be motivated to put a dent in the Ravens’ wild-card hopes.

The Steelers have looked vulnerable at times, but they are tied for the NFL’s best record (10-2), and it is no fluke. They were down 17-3 going into the second half of Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but found a way to win. They had to rally to beat the wounded Green Bay Packers the week before and nearly lost to the woeful Indianapolis Colts two weeks before that, but in each case, they were the team high-fiving at the end.

It’s tempting the look at the past four weeks and conclude that the Ravens have played better overall. They certainly played better this past weekend, but the NFL — especially this season — is all about the here and now.

The Ravens are obviously capable of playing the way they played last Sunday, but the Steelers are not the Detroit Lions. The Steelers have proven all season that they play 60 minutes, even if the first 45 or 50 haven’t always been pretty. That doesn’t figure to change Sunday night against their greatest rival in front of a national television audience.

Of course, it’s always a big game when the Ravens play the Steelers, but this one probably is more about the rivalry than it is about the playoffs, since it is entirely possible that a Ravens win or loss will have little impact on their postseason position.

If the Steelers had not come back to win Monday night, there would still have been a decent chance for the Ravens to win the division title by winning out, since they would only be two games back and Pittsburgh plays the New England Patriots next week. But there is little chance of that happening now.

The Ravens could solidify their hold on the sixth AFC playoff berth with a victory and still have an outside chance of moving into the No. 5 seed, but they would have to gain two games on either the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Tennessee Titans, who are each one game ahead of them and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

There also is value in the Ravens holding off the teams behind them, but along with their one-game lead over the surging Los Angeles Chargers and sagging Buffalo Bills, they own the conference tiebreaker over both teams.

Still, this game, like so many others between the Ravens and Steelers, will be a steel cage match in which none of that matters, which is essentially what Wallace was saying.

And he ought to know.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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