Tim Benz: Enjoy Steelers win over Ravens, but dont make it into something it wasnt – TribLIVE

Tim Benz: Enjoy Steelers win over Ravens, but dont make it into something it wasnt – TribLIVE
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The Pittsburgh Steelers’ nail-biting 20-19 victory over the Baltimore Ravens Sunday was invigorating.

In fact, it was season-saving.

But let’s not assign more to it than that until the Steelers earn it. On social media, talk radio and in general conversation around Pittsburgh Monday, I kept hearing the rhetorical question being asked: “Did the Steelers turn the corner with that win over the Ravens?”

No. They just managed to push the car out of the ditch. Blowing that lead at the end of the fourth quarter would’ve been the equivalent of driving off a cliff.

And if the Steelers did turn a corner, so what? The NFL is like Lombard Street in San Francisco this year. Especially in the AFC. Every time an emerging team turns a corner, it ends up hydroplaning into another one.

For the Steelers, another hairpin turn is coming up Thursday night in Minnesota. A short-week game. On the road. Against the NFL’s seventh-best passing offense (271 yards per game).

Are the Vikings any good? Not really. They are 5-7 and just lost to the previously winless Detroit Lions. Before you laugh too hard, though, remember what team only managed to escape a game against Detroit with a tie a few weeks ago.

Yeah. Trust me. I’ve been trying to pretend it never happened either.

But it did. So did the Steelers’ five losses this year. And that’s why — at 6-5-1 — the Steelers are still outside the current playoff bracket.

So with the unpredictable win-loss, win-loss, win-loss nature of the AFC this year, it’s folly to presume that any singular victory is going to be the start of an extended winning streak based solely on its perceived importance in the moment.

Unless you are the New England Patriots, I guess. They just won their seventh in a row, beating the Buffalo Bills 14-10 on Monday night. A win streak that started with a 54-13 victory over the New York Jets when they entered the game 2-4 and New York was 1-4.

It’s not like anyone back then was saying, “Look out! New England is back, and they are about to rattle off seven straight!”

I get it. Any victory, any year, in the Steelers-Ravens rivalry has a deeper meaning attached to it. But the repeated attempt to ascribe a 2005-esque Jerome Bettis stomping over Brian Urlacher kind of vibe to any victory is becoming a useless exercise.

Especially for a club that may have already had its lone extended good run for the season when the Steelers managed to squeeze out five consecutive games of unbeaten football from Oct. 10 until Nov. 14.

As ESPN.com Baltimore Ravens reporter Jameson Hensley pointed out in the hours following the game at Heinz Field, every team in the AFC has at least four losses through Week 13. That hasn’t happened since 2002. That year’s Steelers team won the AFC North with a 10-5-1 record behind Tommy Maddox, finishing just a half game behind the Raiders and Titans atop the conference standings.

Beating the Ravens kept the Steelers from falling out of the race. It didn’t do as much as we may want to believe in terms of climbing the ladder back into a playoff position. Mainly because that annoying tie against Detroit is preventing them from being in a tie-break situation with the 7-5 Bills right now for the seventh and final AFC playoff spot.

One they could claim because of their Week 1 upset in Orchard Park.

But the Steelers can’t go back in time and make that abysmal Detroit game go away. And they can’t fast forward in hopes of carrying some mythical momentum into Minneapolis Thursday.

They are just going to have to win Thursday, hope the right teams lose this weekend and continue with that formula for the next five weeks until they poke their heads up in the playoff tree.

Or duck back down into their groundhog holes for seven months of a football winter.

I know we love to say, “A win against a division rival kinda counts as two.”

Kinda. But not really. That’ll be closer to the truth if the Steelers and Ravens are still battling for a playoff spot come the final week of the season when they rematch in Baltimore. Until then, the Steelers need to avoid pretending as if that theory is true.

As much as it may have felt like it was as Lamar Jackson’s final 2-point conversion pass was falling incomplete Sunday evening.

Let’s see if the Steelers can navigate the turns Thursday night. If they do, maybe we can find a straighter path toward the playoffs. Until then, fans should lay off the gas.


Tim Benz and Joe Rutter talk about the challenges facing the Steelers as they get a road game in Minnesota following an emotionally draining game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.