The Pittsburgh Steelers know full well where they are right now. through 11 games in their 16-game schedule, they are riding a two-game winning streak that has gotten them to a 6-5 record. They also know exactly where the Baltimore Ravens are—because they are right there with them.
The Ravens are coming off a win over the Bengals that vaulted them back over the Steelers for the temporary lead of the division in the AFC North. The two teams share a 6-5 record, but by virtue of the Ravens’ head-to-head victory over Pittsburgh, they are currently with the tiebreaking advantage that gives them the division lead.
That will inevitably be settled one way or another a few weeks from now when the Steelers host Baltimore in Heinz Field for the rematch on Christmas Day, a game in which they could wrest the head-to-head tiebreaker away and make it a moot point. A win could also wide out the division record tiebreaker.
Up next would be the record in common games. The Ravens have already lost to two teams that the Steelers have beaten—the Redskins and the Jets—but the Steelers have not yet lost to any team the Ravens have beaten.
Baltimore’s next three games leading up to the showdown on Christmas, however, is all against teams the Steelers have lost to, and they have already beaten one opponent that Pittsburgh has yet to play. The Steelers next opponent, the Giants, has already beaten the Ravens.
But none of this matters right now. The game against the Ravens on Christmas doesn’t matter right now. There are still three more games to be played between now and then. That is an order of business to be settled at a later time, and not worthy of causing a distraction now.
That is the Steelers’ focus in the locker room as well, with Ryan Shazier telling Mike Prisuta that “if we just focus on what’s going on in our stadium, taking care of the responsibilities in our stadium, we understand we don’t really have to look outside of our stadium and look at what everybody else is doing”.
And technically, he is absolutely right. From a purely academic standpoint, the Steelers don’t have to concern themselves with what any other team is doing right now when it comes to determining whether or not they are in position to win the division and go to the playoffs. If they win their games, they win the division.
“We know it’s going to come down to that game”, said David DeCastro, “regardless of how things really shake out”. It would seem unlikely that the two teams will separate themselves by more than a game between now and then.
“You never really know, but at the same time it’s in our control to an extent”, DeCastro continued. “It’s going to come through, we’re going to have a factor in it”. But for now, there is just one game in front of them, and that is at home against the Giants.