Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens: Big Ben, Polamalu Give Steelers Edge
We all know that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens have a vicious rivalry.
The two teams will meet for the third time this year when they play a playoff game at Heinz Field. It will the second time in three years that they will play each other three times in one season.
The teams are evenly matched for the most part, but I like the Steelers' chances because of two players: Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger.
Since 2004, the Steelers are 8-2 against the Baltimore Ravens when Ben Roethlisberger starts at quarterback. That includes six straight victories since 2006.
Ben is the perfect quarterback for the Steelers because of his size, toughness, mobility and clutch play.
Along with an 8-2 record against Baltimore, Ben has 15 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, while averaging an 85.4 QB rating. The only two times the Ravens have beaten the Steelers when Ben was the quarterback were in 2006.
That was by far the worst season of Roethlisberger's career and the Ravens had the better team that year. Since then, Ben has beaten them every time he's faced them, including a game in 2007 when he threw five touchdowns in the first half and finished the game a perfect quarterback rating.
For his career, Ben has five game-winning drives against the Ravens. The games might not always be pretty, but Ben seems to be able to make that one play that makes a difference in the game.
Who wins on Saturday?
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers have the other difference-maker in the game in Polamalu.
Pardon my bias, but I believe that no other defender in the league impacts the game as much as Polamalu. Even though he has a hard time staying healthy, Troy impacts the game like no other safety I've ever seen. He's disruptive both in the passing and running game.
Lately, Troy has been making some big plays in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.
In the 2008 AFC Championship Game, the Steelers were leading 16-14 late in the fourth quarter. Then rookie Joe Flacco threw a pass that ended up being picked off by Polamalu. Troy took it back to the house for a touchdown and clinched a victory for the Steelers and a trip to the Super Bowl.
Earlier in that game Troy made a ridiculous play on an attempted quarterback sneak on a 4th-and-1 for the Ravens. Troy had great timing and dove over the offensive line, landing on top of Flacco, stopping him from getting the first down.
In the second meeting against the two teams this year in Baltimore, Troy yet again made a game-changing play: The Ravens had the ball with less than three minutes left on a 2nd-and-5. They ran a play-action pass and once again Troy showed great timing and awareness. He ran in free and untouched and had Flacco dead to rights.
Instead of trying to tackle the 6'6" QB, he went for the ball and knocked it out of his hands. The Steelers recovered the ball deep in Ravens territory and went on to win the game.
The Ravens did come to Heinz Field and win earlier this season—that much is true. You also have to consider the fact that Troy didn't make any big plays in that game.
The Steelers also didn't have Big Ben who was serving a four-game suspension. Charlie Batch was anything but special and eventually threw a game-clinching interception.
I expect another hard-fought game between the two rivals this Saturday. Because of these two special players, I like the Steelers' chances.
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