With a win over the Baltimore Ravens on Christmas at home, the Pittsburgh Steelers can wrap up the AFC North for the second time in three seasons. Mike Tomlin’s club has won five straight games and own a one-game lead in the division. But the Steelers have also lost four straight games, and are 3-9 in their last 12 encounters with the Ravens. That includes a playoff loss at Pittsburgh in 2014, the first and only time that the franchise has lost to a divisional rival in the post-season.

Last week, Baltimore held on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-26. They have some work to do if they’re going to reach the playoffs but it’s hard to count out this team of savvy veterans.

Joe knows the Black and Gold

You have to go back and look at how far Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has come in this bitter AFC North rivalry. In his first three seasons in the league, he faced the Steelers eight times – including a pair of playoff encounters. Baltimore was 2-6 in those contests and the young signal-caller had his issues. He threw for 1,550 yards and seven scores compared to eight interceptions. Flacco was sacked 29 times and lost five of his nine fumbles. That’s 13 total turnovers in eight outings against the Black and Gold.

Starting in 2011 and including an AFC Wild Card Playoff win at Heinz Field in ’14, the strong-armed Flacco is 8-3 vs. Pittsburgh. He’s totaled 2,500 yards through the air, connecting for 15 touchdowns with only four interceptions.

There have been nine more fumbles but only three lost. And the nine-year pro has been sacked 25 times in those 11 contests. In Week 9, Flacco threw for 241 yards and one touchdown (1 interception) in his team’s 21-14 victory over the visiting Steelers.

Different Steelers defense

During Pittsburgh’s five-game winning streak, Mike Tomlin’s club has been a lot more buttoned up on the defensive side of the ball.

The Steelers have limited each of their foes to fewer than 100 yards on the ground. After totaling just 13 sacks and forcing 10 turnovers during the club’s 4-5 start, James Harrison, Ryan Shazier, and rookies such as cornerback Artie Burns and safety Sean Davis have become far more aggressive. Pittsburgh has totaled 19 sacks and eight takeaways during their current winning streak.

Still, the Baltimore Ravens have had Pittsburgh’s number of late. It’s hard to believe they won’t make it difficult for Tomlin and company on Christmas afternoon at Heinz Field.

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