The Ravens can forget their normal routine and their regular seven days’ rest for one week.
Baltimore will be back at it just four days after trouncing the Jets, as the rival Steelers will be coming to M&T Bank Stadium Thursday for a Thanksgiving night matchup.
So no easy day Monday or day off Tuesday. The Ravens were back to work today and will be at it straight through to make up for the shorter lead-up to Thursday.
Coach Harbaugh didn’t favor the physical or mental side being the greater challenge with preparation condensed.
“It’s probably both of those two things, balancing that out,” Harbaugh said. “Physically, we have to get back. The turnaround’s quick (considering) the physical football game that we were in. We were in a very physical game, so we’ve got to get our guys back and ready to play another physical game after that. That’s a one-hand challenge.
“The other challenge is being mentally prepared, just from the standpoint of what to expect X-and-O-wise, how to execute our schemes, timing in the passing game. Things like that are a challenge in a week like this. But still, our guys have had a lot of practice. We’ll be running stuff that we know and understand against a team that we pretty much understand. I’m sure there will be a wrinkle or two that they’ll throw at us that we’ll have to be ready for, and we’ll just go play football.”
The Ravens have already faced the Steelers this year, falling 19-16 on a game-winning field goal as time expired on Oct. 20 in Pittsburgh.
The teams see each other two times every regular season, and every so often, will do so a third time in the playoffs. So there’s no question that Baltimore and Pittsburgh are as familiar with each other as any two teams in the NFL with their rivalry being one of the most heated in the league.
But does that “comfort” with each other help alleviate some of the difficulties of having less time to prepare?
“When you play an opponent that you don’t know, there’s a lot of groundwork that you have to do in terms of establishing how they set up their system and how they organize things, so both teams have a pretty good idea, I’m sure, of how the other is organized,” Harbaugh said. “So we’re pretty far down the road with each other at this point.”
Defensive lineman Chris Canty also believes the Ravens-Steelers familiarity factor helps minimize the effects of the shortened week.
“It’s a rivalry game and so there’s not a lot of secrets between the two teams,” Canty said. “They understand our personnel this year. We have a good feel for what they have. That being said, you have to look at the little nuances, the details, the wrinkles, over the past four games what they’ve been doing, how they’ve been attacking teams, what they’ve been having success with, what they’ve been struggling with. You have to try to look at the whole picture and put yourself in a situation where you’re able to have the most success.”
The Steelers are an improved team from the one which beat the Ravens five weeks ago. That victory was just the second of the season for Pittsburgh, which has turned its season around following a 2-6 start.
The Steelers have won three in a row to join the logjam of six teams tied for the AFC’s second wild card at 5-6. They’re also tied with Baltimore for second place in the AFC North, two games behind the Bengals.
“They’re finding ways to win football games,” Canty said. “They’re running with some success. Ben Roethlisberger has got his mojo going again, so to speak, and they’re playing complementary football. They’re looking like the Pittsburgh Steelers of old, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us come Thursday.”
As for the glut of teams vying for the conference’s final playoff spot, Harbaugh said the Ravens are aware of it. But it doesn’t change what his team has to do.
“We understand where we’re at. We know what everybody’s record is, if that’s what you’re asking. But we also know we have to win,” Harbaugh said. “So none of that matters unless we continue to win. We’ve got to win as many games as we can, and we’ll be hopeful that that’s enough to get us in. That’s what we’re looking for. We haven’t given up on the division championship yet either, so we’ve got to win games. That’s it, and we’ve got to win the next one on our schedule.”
And that’s the Steelers game.
“It’s a big game. A lot of things are riding on it,” tackle Michael Oher said. “You have to be into it mentally. You’re going against a team from the division. It is the Steelers, a big rivalry game, so it’s going to be a physical game and we’re going to have to get after it.”
Note: The Ravens were relatively close to full strength Monday in their first practice of the short week. Safety Brynden Trawick (ankle) was the only player missing while Canty (shoulder) was a limited participant.
The Steelers have already ruled out cornerback Curtis Brown (knee) and defensive tackle Steve McLendon (ankle).