Reality came quickly after the greatest day — statistically at least — of Ben Roethlisberger's career.
Less than 24 hours after throwing for a career-high 522 yards and six touchdowns in Pittsburgh's 51-34 romp over Indianapolis, Roethlisberger was on daddy duty, changing the diapers of his two young children and already pondering a familiar challenge for the surging Steelers: Baltimore.
"Life goes on and that's the realistic part of it," Roethlisberger said. "You have to put it behind you just as if you had a bad game. ... There's no point in sitting here dwelling on the past when we have a big one this week."
Pittsburgh (5-3) raised the stakes considerably after blowing out the streaking Colts for its second straight win following seven weeks of erratic play. The team that turned it over three times and committed nine penalties in a 26-6 road loss to the Ravens in early September has now piled up 81 points and 10 touchdowns in its last seven quarters.
Maintaining that kind of pace will be difficult in a series known for low-scoring, taut games. Nine of the last 11 meetings between the clubs have been decided by three points or less regardless of the venue or the stakes. Baltimore hardly plays the role of intimidated visitor at Heinz Field: The Ravens (5-3) are 3-1 in their last four regular-season games in Pittsburgh.
"I love it because they put so much energy into hating you," Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "You obviously are doing something, so it's kind of flattering. I take it as a sign of respect."
Even with two months to go, the prime-time showdown could be a separation game in the cramped AFC North, where all four teams are over .500. Baltimore's loss in Cincinnati last week gave the Bengals a season sweep. If the Ravens can do the same to the Steelers, Pittsburgh's path back to the postseason will become considerably tougher.
Not that Suggs wants to look that far down the road.
"Both teams are 5-3 right now with a good chance of making the playoffs," he said. "I believe in 2011, three teams out of the division did make the playoffs, so it's a good chance. But everybody loves Ravens-Steelers. The world loves us. So do we."
Some other things to love heading into the latest revival of one of the NFL's nastiest rivalries:
FLAWLESS FLACCO: Baltimore's success at Heinz Field relies heavily on quarterback Joe Flacco, who is 3-3 in Pittsburgh and seems to thrive in a decidedly hostile environment.
"It's awesome to play in front of your home crowd and get all that excitement," Flacco said. "But there are times when it's almost just as good to go in there and play so good that you can silence people that really don't want to be silenced and aren't very good at holding their words."
No wonder Flacco has heard an earful over the years. In his last eight games against the Steelers, he's thrown 10 touchdown passes and been intercepted only once.
ONE LESS SMITH: The Ravens will be without cornerback Jimmy Smith, who has a sprained left foot.
"It's next man up. That's why you have five days to prepare," safety Matt Elam said. "We've got some great corners who can come in and do things while Jimmy's out."
Even though Jimmy Smith is out, there will be no shortage of Smiths in white jerseys Sunday night. There's wide receivers Steve Smith and Torrey Smith and linebacker Darryl Smith.
Torrey Smith didn't have a catch last week, the first time he's been blanked since the second game of his rookie season in 2011.
LITTLE BIG MEN: In an era when teams are looking for the next Calvin Johnson, undersized wide receivers Steve Smith and Antonio Brown of Pittsburgh are thriving. The 5-foot-10 Brown leads the NFL with 60 receptions and the 5-foot-9 Smith is seventh with 41.
"The little guys are coming back to rule the world," Smith said. "We're coming back (and) we're here to stay."
HONORING JOE: The Steelers will honor Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene during a halftime ceremony. Pittsburgh will officially retire Greene's No. 75 jersey, a formality considering it hasn't been issued since Greene retired in 1981. Greene helped the Steelers to four Super Bowls in the 1970s.
SPREADING IT AROUND: While Brown is Roethlisberger's favorite target, the Steelers spread it around against the Colts. Nine players caught a pass, a development Roethlisberger feels can only help as his team moves forward.
"As long as each guy wires in on what he's doing on his particular plays and groupings then we can keep rolling," he said.
AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.
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