As Baltimore Ravens Coach Brian Billick noted earlier this week, today's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium will show what kind of team the Ravens are.
No matter how impressive the Ravens looked in routing the Tennessee Titans, 41-14, last week, it will be seen as a fluke unless they continue their success.
Pittsburgh "is going to be an excellent test," Billick said. "It's a place we haven't had a lot of success. The game you have to play against Pittsburgh--which is a smash-mouth, match-passion-for-passion type of game, in a hostile environment--that's exactly the game I want to play on the road after coming off a big win."
Even more than the win against Tennessee, this game could turn out to be a defining moment for the Ravens. A loss would indicate a relative lack of progress and the need for much more work. A win would be proof of a move in the right direction.
There are two factors working against the Ravens (5-7). First, they are 5-14 the week after a win; they have put together back-to-back wins just twice in their last nine chances.
Second, there is Three Rivers Stadium. Baltimore's lack of success in Pittsburgh dates from the franchise's days in Cleveland. Although the Ravens have not won in three attempts at Three Rivers Stadium, that pales in comparison with the Cleveland Browns' woes there. The Browns, under Art Modell's ownership, were 4-26 in Pittsburgh.
This season, however, the Steelers (5-7) are not having much success at home--they are 1-4.
But lately, Pittsburgh has struggled everywhere. The Steelers have lost four straight, including defeats to the expansion Cleveland Browns (2-11) and the Cincinnati Bengals (3-10). The Steelers will have a tough time against the Ravens' defense, which is ranked fourth in the NFL. Quarterback Mike Tomczak will make his second consecutive start in place of Kordell Stewart, who has been moved to wide receiver. Running back Jerome Bettis has run well against the Ravens--559 yards in his past six games in the series--but the Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.
Baltimore running back Priest Holmes is expected to start for the injured Errict Rhett. Holmes, who has played little this season, carried nine times for 100 yards against Tennessee. He will need to do well early to open the passing game for Tony Banks.