PITTSBURGH — The AFC North has essentially come down to a two-team race between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.
The division co-leaders are 6-5 and lead the third-place Cincinnati Bengals (3-7-1) by 2.5 games with five weeks left in the season. Thus, it would be only natural to look ahead to Christmas Day when the Steelers host the Ravens at Heinz Field in what could be a showdown for the division title.
However, the Steelers insist they are not looking that far ahead.
“We know it’s going to come down to that game, regardless of how things really shake out,” guard David DeCastro said. “You never really know, but at the same time it’s in our control to an extent. It’s going to come through, we’re going to have a factor in it, and if we can win these games, especially the division ones, we’re going to have a good chance of being in.
“I think we’re happy where we are. Obviously, it could be better. But if we win this division and have a home playoff game, we’ll feel real good about it. This is important football and that’s the way we like it.
“We kind of jockeyed for position a little bit, had some good stretches and bad stretches and now it’s the most important stretch of the year.”
The Steelers take a two-game winning streak into their home game Sunday against the New York Giants (8-3), who have won six in a row. The back-to-back victories come on the heels of a four-game losing streak that included dropping a 21-14 decision to the Ravens on Nov. 6 at Baltimore.
In addition to facing the Giants and Ravens, the Steelers also have road games against the Buffalo Bills (6-5) on Dec. 11 and Bengals on Dec. 18 then finish the regular season by hosting the Cleveland Browns (0-12) on New Year’s Day.
The Ravens host the Miami Dolphins (7-4) on Sunday, play at the New England Patriots (9-2) on Dec. 12 and host the Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) on Dec. 18 before facing the Steelers then visiting the Bengals on Jan. 1 in their regular-season finale.
Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier says he doesn’t have either team’s schedule memorized.
“If we just focus on what’s going on in our stadium, taking care of the responsibilities in our stadium, we understand we don’t really have to look outside of our stadium and look at what everybody else is doing,” Shazier said. “We’re just trying to focus on what we’re doing.”
With the Ravens not coming to the Steelers’ stadium for more than three weeks, guard Ramon Foster is taking the same approach. He knows his team will its hands full with the Giants, who have the second-longest current winning streak in the NFL after the Dallas Cowboys’ 10-game run.
“At this point of the season we can still be 11-5,” Foster said. “That’s what we’re shooting for right now. Right now, we’ve got the Giants and we’ll just deal with them accordingly. It’s a home game and we’ve got a couple left so we’ve just got to win at home. That’s got to be our biggest issue.”