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In some ways, the opening day 35-7 loss in Baltimore feels like so long ago. Yet, it also feels like yesterday. The Steelers, like the Big Ben plush in the photograph, were left hanging that afternoon in Maryland. In fact, after another loss in Houston, most of the media sent the Black and Gold to the gallows.
On Sunday, they get a chance to turn the tables from their nightmarish first game. Make no mistake that the confidence gained in their win over New England will help Pittsburgh in their quest to stay atop the AFC North.
While the entire season is important, the homestand against the Patriots and Ravens has been circled by many as the Steelers' real shot to prove themselves as contenders in 2011. So far, so good.
Steelers fans are smart; they realize that improvement is key. The team left a lot out on the field, and it must be worked on! Yet, most fans went to bed smiling on Sunday night.
Aside from championships, the victory may have been the most satisfying regular season win in a handful of years in the Steel City.
Dropping to 1-7 against Brady and the Patriots would have been devastating for the esteem of the franchise and its fans. While only one game, the defeat would have come with labels.
"The team that can't beat New England."
"The team that is 5-3 because of a soft schedule."
"The team that won't beat Baltimore."
"The team with x, y, and z problems."
Executing their game plan, the Steelers demonstrated x, y, and z reasons for excitement, and a win over the Patriots showcased that they are capable of taking down the so-called "Evil Empire." At least, they're able to beat them in 2011!
With the victory, hopes are high heading into a contest against Baltimore. While a Ravens loss to Arizona would have made for the perfect Sunday, signs are there that Week 1's blowout may have been an aberration.
After completing less than one-third of his passes against the Jets, Flacco and the offense were nearly shutout in Jacksonville. Last week, the Cardinals nearly slapped another hard loss on the Steelers' bitter nemesis.
Psychologically speaking, the season is falling into place. Down the road, only the team's play will determine where this season ends, but the preparation toward the goal of winning is certainly aided with the confidence bred on Sunday.
Getting the monkey off of their backs, the Steelers can now look to simply focus on doing what they had normally done before Kickoff Weekend: beating the Ravens.
Suddenly, the 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers are a team atop the power rankings, capable of winning the important games.
Surely, none are more important than this Sunday against the Ravens. Can the Steelers continue to fire up the fan base with another tough win?
Undoubtedly, a victory over Baltimore would fully prove that the Black and Gold are back in form (or getting close).