PITTSBURGH – After vanquishing an old rival, the Steelers have set their sights on a current one.
After a 20-13 victory Sunday over the Dallas Cowboys, the Pittsburgh Steelers biggest rivals from the 1970s, they do not have time to bask in the win, not with a game against the Baltimore Ravens looming.
The Steelers (10-3) have insisted throughout the season they aren't concerned about Baltimore (9-4) keeping pace in the AFC North.
"I'm just thinking about the next game; that's it," said Steelers linebacker James Harrison Sunday. "I don't care what (Baltimore) is doing. I don't care what they've done. Our job is to win. If we win, we don't have to look behind us."
They do have to look at the Ravens now.
There is no denying Sunday's game in Baltimore is the biggest of the season.
A win by the Steelers would sweep the Ravens and clinch the AFC North. Pittsburgh defeated Baltimore, 23-20, in overtime at Heinz Field Sept. 29. A victory by Baltimore would cloud the picture.
A Ravens' win would leave the two teams with identical records heading into the final three weeks of the season, and a spilt of the regular season series.
Baltimore would temporarily be in first place in the AFC North based on a 5-1 division record compared to 4-1 for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has one remaining division game, against Cleveland at Heinz Field in Week 17.
If the two teams finish with identical records and the Steelers beat Cleveland, the NFL would use the third criteria, won-loss percentage in common games, to break the tie.
But that might not work.
Baltimore finishes the season at Dallas and home to Jacksonville, two teams the Steelers have defeated this season. Pittsburgh closes at Tennessee, which beat the Ravens Oct. 5, and home against Cleveland. If, for example, the Ravens lose at Dallas and Pittsburgh loses at Tennessee and then both teams win their regular season finales to finish at 11-5, both would be 7-3 against common opponents.
The NFL would then go to the fourth tiebreaking procedure, best won-loss percentage in games played within the conference.
The Steelers currently have an advantage based on their 8-1 record within the AFC. Baltimore is 7-3.
But a loss to Baltimore would give the Steelers an 8-2 record in the conference, putting the Ravens one game behind the Steelers in that tiebreaker.
In that event, the Steelers could win the division by sweeping their final two games. But that would also push them ahead of the Ravens in common opponents.
If the Steelers were to lose one of their final two games, it would give them a third conference loss and possibly force the NFL to use the fifth tiebreaker, strength of victory.
In that event, the Steelers have to hope the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers – two teams they have beaten – continue to win, while Miami and Philadelphia – two teams the Ravens have beaten – falter.
Pittsburgh's victories have come against teams with a combined 52-55-1 record, compared to 36-57-2 for the Ravens – though a win over the Steelers would certainly improve that for Baltimore.
"We just need to go and take care of business," said Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley. "If we do that, nothing else matters."
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter