The best and most physical rivalry in the National Football League will be once again be renewed as the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, earning them the right to travel to Pittsburgh for a rubber match with the Steelers.
Baltimore defeated Pittsburgh, who were playing without Ben Roethlisberger, 17-14 on a last second touchdown pass by Joe Flacco in Week 4. Pittsburgh then returned the favor in Week 13 after Troy Polamalu forced a fumble leading to a nine-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Isaac Redman to give the Steelers a 13-10 win.
Each game was critical in deciding the AFC North as well a first round bye, but the final installment between these two teams is by far the most important as the winner will have the right to play either the New England Patriots or New York Jets for the AFC Championship.
Saturday’s game will be the third time that these teams have met in the playoffs. Pittsburgh won the prior two, 27-10 in the Divisional Round of the 2001-02 season and 23-14 in the 2009 AFC Championship Game. The Steelers swept the season series in 2008-09.
This year’s game will be different as the Steelers and Ravens split the first two games, but like the previous two, this game will be contested at Heinz Field.
Pittsburgh will be well rested after having a week off as the AFC’s second seed, allowing banged up players such as Roethlisberger and Polamalu to rest as well as the rest of their veterans who could have used a week off.
Since 2000, the Steelers are 3-0 in home Divisional Round games, including Mike Tomlin’s only home Divisional Round win in 2008. Roethlisberger has won all three of his games in this round, including home wins in 2004 against the Jets and in 2008 against the Chargers. He has an 8-2 career playoff record and has an 8-2 record against Baltimore.
The Ravens will not go down without a fight as they are one of the better playoff teams when on the road. Flacco has led the Ravens to a 4-2 road playoff record since 2008, his rookie season. He is 2-5 against Pittsburgh.
The Steelers and Ravens will kick off at Heinz Field at 4:30 pm on Saturday, January 15th.
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