Lamar Jackson, Ravens
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Ravens facing a crucial game against Steelers on Sunday

Remember when the Baltimore Ravens were the biggest challenge to the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC? Yeah, good times.

Baltimore was 2-0 after hammering the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals. Lamar Jackson threw a combined seven touchdowns without committing a turnover. In short, the Ravens were rolling, and their second-year quarterback was an early frontrunner for the MVP.

Since then, things haven’t gone so well. Baltimore was beaten by the Chiefs 33-28 in a game not as close as the score indicates in Week 3. Last Sunday, the Ravens came home and had a chance to put the Cleveland Browns two games back of them in the AFC North race. Instead, the Browns pulled ahead of Baltimore via the tiebreaker, beating it 40-25 in convincing fashion.

Now, the Ravens stagger into Pittsburgh to play the 1-3 Steelers. These aren’t your father’s Steelers. No, this is a team with Mason Rudolph under center and both running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown long gone. Pittsburgh is a shell of what it once was, and it’s a team that any real contender would pound into the turf far more often than not.

The Ravens have to find a way to go into Pittsburgh and handle business. Baltimore would move to 3-2 and perhaps leapfrog the Browns by week’s end, with Cleveland having to play on the road against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. Worst-case scenario sees the Ravens get back over the .500 mark while becoming 1-1 in the AFC North, simultaneously putting the Steelers two games behind them with a rematch in Charm City.

If Baltimore loses to the Steelers, we’ve likely seen the peak of the Ravens. It would be tough to recover, considering the schedule ramps up in difficulty. Baltimore still has road dates with the Browns, Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills. At home, the Ravens will receiver visits from the Patriots, 49ers, and Houston Texans. One would imagine there are at least four losses in that slate, even if John Harbaugh and Co. handle business in all the games they “should” win.

It’s early. The Ravens have an opportunity to bounce back with a nice divisional road win and get rolling. Next week? The Cincinnati Bengals at home. Baltimore could be 4-2 quickly and feeling great on the flight to Seattle.

First things first, though. The Ravens have to beat the Steelers.

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