For Ravens fans, there was consolation in Monday's loss at Pittsburgh: The Steelers are running out of reinforcements. They took a big hit when right guard Kendall Simmons tore his Achilles tendon. They lost depth in the backfield when first-round draft pick Rashard Mendenhall fractured his shoulder.
The Steelers gutted out a win this time, perhaps as much on memory as anything else. This is what they do. But there is no escaping the long season, no dodging the injury bullet. The Steelers are vulnerable.
Now the Ravens are crowding them at the top of the division. I've already written it's feasible to think they have a shot at the playoffs out of the sad-sack AFC North. After Monday's game, I'm inclined to crawl a little farther out on that illogical limb. It's beginning to seem almost realistic.
As long as the defense can stay reasonably healthy, as long as Cam Cameron keeps coming up with creative game plans and as long as Joe Flacco continues to be oblivious to the buzz, the Ravens are going to be competitive. John Harbaugh has built a strong base in just one training camp.
His team will only get better. And tougher. And maybe the next time they'll out-tough the tough guys. Besides, somebody has to win the division.