Much has changed since Ravens' Week 1 beatdown

When we last saw the Pittsburgh Steelers in person, they were walking out of M&T Bank Stadium an admittedly embarrassed football team.

They'd just gotten stomped by their arch rivals 35-7, beaten soundly in all three phases. Within days, analysts were saying their days of contending for Super Bowls with their current roster might be over. They were too old, too slow and were battling too many injuries.

Things have changed a bit since then.

The Steelers are no longer being called old or slow; they're now considered tested and actually present significant problems on the offensive side of the ball because of their speed. Pittsburgh has won six of their last seven games since that Week 1 beatdown, including a 25-17 victory last Sunday against the Patriots. They have the NFL's second-ranked defense, are 4-0 at home and currently sit atop the division by a half-game.

Meanwhile, the Ravens, experts said, were poised to run away with the AFC North following that resounding Week 1 victory.

That afternoon, Baltimore's offense looked efficient and balanced, the offensive line had a strong day (and it stood to reason that group would only improve as the season went on) and their defense grabbed a remarkable seven takeaways.

Things have changed a bit since then.

Nearly two months later, the Ravens are having trouble finding offensive consistency in large part due to a struggling O-line. They've been incredibly pass-heavy at times, a strategy which has frustrated even some of the members of the Baltimore defense.

While the Ravens now sport the No. 1 defense in the league, that group has had a tougher time forcing turnovers of late, averaging 1.5 takeaways per game since that season-opening win where they grabbed three Ben Roethlisberger interceptions and four fumbles.

The Ravens have gone from a team many felt was sure to take home the division title to a team with a handful of question marks.

Things can change quickly in this league. After watching that season-opening trouncing that John Harbaugh's Ravens put on Mike Tomlin's Steelers, who would have thought that these teams would be entering this Week 9 rematch with Pittsburgh on top of the AFC North?

Yet, that's where we are.

With a win Sunday night, the Ravens can earn back that title of top-dog in the division. A season sweep of Pittsburgh (which would be just the franchise's second ever sweep of the black and gold) would give Baltimore the tiebreaker over their rivals and make it so that the Steelers would need to finish with a superior regular season record to earn another AFC North crown.

With a loss at Heinz Field on Sunday, the Ravens would fall a game and a half back of Pittsburgh, and yet again, they'd be looking up at Roethlisberger and Co. in the standings as the two teams head down the stretch.

As big as that Week 1 win seemed at the time - and boy, did it feel huge back then - this Sunday's game seems even bigger right now.

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