Much has changed since the last time the Ravens faced off against the Steelers.
In that Week 7 matchup, Pittsburgh was 1-5 and the Ravens had a chance to squash their rival’s playoff hopes before the midpoint of the season.
But the Steelers came away with a 19-16 victory at Heinz Field and they have now won five of their last seven games, including three in a row, to get back into the thick of the AFC playoff picture.
“That team is hot,” running back
The Steelers (5-6) are now tied with the Ravens and four other teams chasing the No. 2 wild-card spot. They have found a rhythm in recent weeks with wins over Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland. Led by an opportunistic defense and the play of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have come to life.
“Ben Roethlisberger has his mojo going again, so to speak,” defensive lineman
During their current three-game winning streak, Roethlisberger has thrown for seven touchdowns and just one interception, averaging 262.6 passing yards per game. The defense has also looked like the classic Steelers defense, forcing eight turnovers in the last three games.
“I don’t think we’re doing things differently, we’re just doing things better,” Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said during his press conference Monday.
Roethlisberger, who was the subject of trade rumors a few weeks ago, has been at the forefront of the Steelers’ turnaround. He threw nine interceptions in the team’s six losses earlier in the season, but has tossed just one since then.
He has jump-started an offense that has averaged 29 points a game the last three weeks compared to just 17.6 points per game the last time the Ravens faced them.
“They’re playing complimentary football,” Canty said. “They’re looking like the Pittsburgh Steelers of old, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us Thursday.”
Another area where the Steelers have improved is in the running game. Running back Le’Veon Bell has come on strong in his rookie campaign, and he leads the team with 455 rushing yards on 143 carries.
“It's going to take 11 hats swarming to the football to bring down Le'Veon Bell,” Canty said.
The improved performance from Pittsburgh’s offense and the ability of the defense to be opportunistic has the Steelers again the in hunt for a playoff spot with this week’s critical Thanksgiving matchup at M&T Bank Stadium.
“It usually seems like it always plays out to be like this [where] we’ll be playing that other team for the division,” tight end
As the Steelers have changed, Tomlin also noted some differences in the Ravens. He pointed specifically to increased production from the tight ends and signs of life from Rice and the running game.
“I do see some things evolving for them,” Tomlin said. “Baltimore is 2-2 since the last time we played them, but 2-0 at home. We realize how difficult it is to go into their place and get a victory.”