The Ravens need to win this game more than the Steelers. Baltimore can't afford to be swept by Pittsburgh, which hasn't happened since 2008, because the Ravens would lose any tiebreaker with the Steelers. That means the Ravens would essentially need to make up two games on the Steelers over the final four weeks.
More than that, the Ravens can't fall behind the Steelers considering Pittsburgh's soft remaining schedule. After Thursday, the Steelers play three of their final four games at home and face one team with a winning record (the Cincinnati Bengals). Basically, the Ravens need to beat the Steelers because Pittsburgh may not lose again.
The Ravens' final month of the regular season is much more challenging. Three of the Ravens' final four opponents either lead a division or are tied for first place. So, if the Ravens win, the Steelers have a better chance to make up ground considering Baltimore plays at Detroit, home against New England and at Cincinnati in the final three weeks.
The Ravens and Steelers are among six AFC teams who have 5-6 records. The Tennessee Titans currently hold the sixth and final seed in the AFC.
While Ravens coach John Harbaugh has a singular focus -- W.I.N. (What's Important Now) is his mantra -- he acknowledges he takes a peek at the standings.
"We understand where we're at. We know what everybody's record is," Harbaugh said. "But we also know we have to win. 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's enough to get us in."
Of the 5-6 teams, the Ravens hold the tiebreaker advantage over the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets due to head-to-head wins. Baltimore is technically ahead of the San Diego Chargers because of a better conference record.
The Ravens are looking to reach the playoffs for a sixth straight season under Harbaugh.
"Every week is a must-win," wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "If you lose, things aren’t going to be looking pretty for you. We just have to keep giving ourselves a fighting chance.”