AFC Championship: Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens Look To Make History

Andrew GloverCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2009

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens are a win away from making history, as they face each other in the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers (13-4) are one win away from the most AFC Championships; they are currently tied with the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots at six. In their six appearances the Steelers are 5-1 with their last win coming in Super Bowl XL.

This game will be the first time two teams from the same division played in the AFC Championship since 1999, when the Tennessee Titans defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Steelers reached the AFC Championship by beating the San Diego Chargers 35-24 last week. Pittsburgh was second seed and got a first round bye after winning their sixth AFC North title.

Ben Roethlisberger completed 17-of-26 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown in last week’s game against San Diego. In his playoff career, Roethlisberger has completed 135 passes for 1,728 yards, 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Roethlisberger is 6-2 as a starting quarterback in the playoffs.

Willie Parker had 146 yards rushing on 27 carries and two touchdowns last week. In five career playoff games, Parker has had 371 yards rushing on 84 carries and four touchdowns. The Steelers have won all five playoff games that Parker had a carry.

Hines Ward caught four passes for 70 yards last week against San Diego. In 12 playoff games, Ward has caught 71 receptions for 966 yards and eight touchdowns. Ward was MVP when the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

The Steelers’ defense forced two turnovers, four sacks for 33 yards and limited the Chargers to 15 yards rushing on 12 carries. This week, Pittsburgh’s defense will need to get pressure on Joe Flacco and force some mistakes.

The Ravens (13-5) are looking to make history repeat for the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. Pittsburgh has lost four of the last five AFC Championship Games when they play at home.

The Chargers beat them in 1995, the Broncos in 1997, and the New England Patriots in 2001 and 2004.

Another thing that could fair well for the Ravens is the teams that beat Pittsburgh are combined 3-1 in the Super Bowl, with the Chargers being the only team to lose. The Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII and the Patriots won Super Bowls XXXVI and XXIX.

The last time the Steelers won the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh was in 1995, when they defeated the Indianapolis Colts 20-16. Neil O’Donnell was the quarterback and Kordell Stewart was playing wide receiver. That Pittsburgh team would lose 27-17 to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX.

The Ravens are seeking their second AFC Championship; they defeated the Oakland Raiders 16-3 in 2000. Baltimore went on to defeat the New York Giants 34-7 in Super Bowl XXXV.

The Ravens reached the AFC Championship by winning two road playoff games. They beat the Miami Dolphins 27-9 in the Wild Card Game and beat the AFC-leading Tennessee Titans 13-10 in the Divisional Game. With a win on Sunday, the Ravens could be the third sixth seed in the last four seasons to reach the Super Bowl.

Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco is looking to continue his historic run and be the first rookie quarterback to lead his team to the Super Bowl. In the two playoff games, Flacco has completed 20-of-45 passes for 296 yards and one touchdown.

Le’Ron McClain and Willis McGahee have led the Ravens in rushing in the playoffs. McClain has 31 carries for 87 yards and one touchdown. McGahee has 19 carries for 94 yards. Both McGahee and McClain are making their first playoff appearances.

McClain is in his second season with the Ravens, and McGahee is in his second season with the Ravens but fifth overall. McGahee played his first three seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

Derrick Mason has led the Ravens in receiving in both playoff games against Miami and Tennessee. In the two playoff games, Mason has nine receptions for 149 yards and one touchdown. In nine playoff games, Mason has 40 receptions for 477 yards and two touchdowns.

Mason’s first six playoff games were with the Titans who he went to the Super Bowl with in 1999.

The Ravens' defense has been an unstoppable force in the playoffs. They have only allowed 19 points in two games, four sacks for 34 yards, and have forced eight turnovers. Ed Reed returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown against Miami.

The key matchup will be the offense against the defense. If the Ravens' defense can keep playing strong, they should win the game. However, if the Steelers' defense can get pressure on Flacco, his historic run could end.

The Steelers will have to make the Ravens beat them with their offense by being able to score points on against Baltimore’s defense. If the Steelers can score 20 or more, it will put more pressure on Flacco and the Ravens offense.

The Ravens will have to limit the Steelers running game and make them one-dimensional. The Titans were able to rush for 116 yards last week. If they do that, they can get pressure on Roethlisberger.