These were brutal, hard hitting affairs where players were often injured. A commentator said during the AFC Championship Game that these two teams were the hardest hitting teams in the NFL.
If that is what you are looking for this weekend, you better watch another game.
The Steelers and Ravens are both banged up on the defensive side of the ball. The two best safeties to probably play the game, Troy Polamalu for the Steelers (Out-Knee) and Ed Reed for the Ravens (Doubtful - Neck) will not be playing. This changes the complexity of both teams dramatically.
The Steelers are also without Aaron Smith, who anchors the defensive line. Though Ziggy Hood is coming along, and will one day be able to replace Smith, he is not there yet.
The Steelers defensive woes are not attributed to injury, but to the struggles of their offense.
Last year's version of the Steelers were ranked number one overall, number one against the run, and number two against the pass. With the Steelers' run oriented attack on offense, their defense was fresh and well rested.
With the Steelers converting to a pass-first offense this season, they are forcing the defense to be on the field more than they have been in the past. This is giving opposing offenses more opportunities, and they are taking advantage of them.
For the Ravens, Tavaris Gooden did not practice this week, so he is also not expected to play. The Ravens linebackers are not the area where they should be concerned. However, their secondary is one of the most depleted in the NFL right now. Lardarius Webb, Fabian Washington, Haruki Nakamura and Samari Rolle are all on Injured Reserve (Rolle is on the PUP list, but is still not able to play).
With Ed Reed unable to play, that makes FIVE defensive backs that will not be in the game for Baltimore. Most teams don't carry many more than that when the season starts.
Offensively, The Ravens seem to be following the path of the Steelers. With second year pro Joe Flacco, they already have their version of Big Ben Roethlisberger. Like Roethlisberger, Flacco has size, arm strength and mobility.
Everyone will know this offseason if the Ravens are seriously converting to a pass-first team if they go out and improve their receivers through free agency and the draft. This is not to knock Derek Mason, who is a great receiver but is getting older and slowing down.
The Steelers face a similar issue with an aging Hines Ward, but with the Steelers having Santonio Holmes, and rookie Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh has the weapons to be the pass-first team.
This should be a great game, but it will not be the normal 17-14 game that these teams are used to.
Pittsburgh wins 35-27.
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