The game you prefer says a lot about you as a football fan. Patriots-Colts is all about quarterbacks. Ravens-Steelers is all about hitting; about the free blitzer forcing the one mistake that changes a season.
The quality of Ravens-Steelers games exceeds the hype before them, which is exceedingly rare. The Jets and Patriots are a soap opera off the field, yet the games are rarely memorable. Pittsburgh and Baltimore deliver drama on the field.
Each Ravens-Steelers game tells a story about why the matchup is so great. Let’s look at a few of those stories from the last three years, and what lessons they can teach us for Saturday’s matchup.
The Steelers usually find a way
(Sept. 29, 2008: Steelers 23-20; Dec. 14, 2008: Steelers 13-9)
The two regular-season games in 2008 symbolize the series perfectly. In Week 4, the Steelers were down 10 points in the fourth quarter. They were on their fourth-string running back and lost a starting offensive lineman for the season. They overcame.
In the second game, the Ravens led 9-6 until Ben Roethlisberger got the ball with 3:36 left. 92 yards and a controversial touchdown throw to Santonio Holmes later, the Steelers were AFC North champions. It was the only touchdown of the game.
"All game they didn't make plays," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said at the time. "One drive they did."
Baltimore drafted Michael Oher in 2009 to handle Pittsburgh’s outside rushers. Oher has endured an up-and-down 2010 season; his ability to hold up on Saturday will be massive. Pittsburgh’s offensive line gets deserved criticism, but Baltimore’s group hasn’t played consistently well all year.
The Ravens often don’t trust their offense to pick up short yardage plays on the ground. They get stymied at the goal line or make a mistake at midfield. It’s usually while throwing the football. Pittsburgh has consistently played better in the fourth quarter in this series by keeping Baltimore’s defense guessing.
Well, most of the time …
Joe Flacco can make fourth quarter magic too
(Oct. 3, 2010: Ravens 17-14)
Flacco’s game-winning touchdown to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 34 seconds left in Week 4 represented a huge step in Flacco’s development. This was a game the Ravens had to win with Charlie Batch at quarterback for the 3-0 Steelers.
Baltimore often appears to outplay the Steelers, yet can’t capitalize on the scoreboard. That was especially true in 2010. Baltimore’s offensive line had one of their best games, moving the ball well all day. But the Ravens turned it over twice, and the defense gave up an inopportune fourth-quarter touchdown.
Flacco responded, like he has for most of his third season. Flacco has thrown 26 touchdowns to five interceptions since Week 3. His game-winning drive was clinical: 4-for-4, 40 yards, and a game-winning toss in only 34 seconds off the clock. He knew exactly where to go with the ball. He has the arm to hit the sideline throw, and he knows when to look off a safety.
Flacco still has more career picks (7) then touchdowns against Pittsburgh (6). He’s sacked on average 3.5 times-per-game. His consistent progress gives Baltimore its best hope.
This rivalry has mostly been defined by the two best defenses of the last decade. Flacco’s emergence as a true foil to Roethlisberger means the matchup should remain just as relevant this decade.
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
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