It's been well documented how these two teams and these two cities are so much alike they simply hate one another. Yes, hate is the chosen word and not by just me.
These two teams are so evenly matched that in the last four meetings they have both scored 63 points, scored seven touchdowns and each has kicked six field goals.
It just can’t get any closer than that. The Ravens will win today. They are the best road playoff team ever in NFL history and they have experience doing exactly what they will do again today.
The Ravens will win in the hostile environment that is Heinz Field just as they did two years ago in upsetting the 13-3 Tennessee Titans at LP field.
The Ravens were beaten everywhere but on the scoreboard that day in Tennessee. It was their 13-10 victory that set up the third meeting that season between the Ravens and Steelers in the AFC Championship game.
That was Joe Flacco’s rookie season but it was his veteran tight end, Todd Heap, who bailed the Ravens out in the last minutes setting up the game winning field goal.
Heap made several big catches that day and he will do it again today.
Flacco is a much different quarterback without Heap. In the December meeting which Pittsburgh won, Heap left after the first offensive play with a hamstring injury and the Ravens couldn't recover.
Nobody was there to block Troy Polamalu on the strip sack fumble that led to the Steelers winning touchdown.
It was also Heap's replacement who dropped the fourth down throw in the flat that ended the Ravens chances on the drive following the Steelers touchdown.
Cam Cameron must get the play into Flacco in plenty of time. Flacco must have time to read what the Steelers are bringing. Flacco's key in doing that is Heap. Flacco will look for Heap because chances are he will find Polamalu as well.
Flacco can not beat the play clock and the Steelers defense at the same time. Cameron must be efficient in his process with Flacco today.
If that goes well for the Ravens then Heap will neutralize Polamalu today and without a big play from Polamalu the Steelers won't beat the Ravens.
In the first meeting with Pittsburgh, Heap had just three catches for 35 yards but the Steelers safety had to account for him. Heap is Polamalu's nemesis.
Heap chips him when he blitzes and on the game winning TD in week four, it was Heap who picked up a blitzing Polamalu, allowing Flacco to step and find a wide open TJ Houshmandzadeh.
Many have been wondering all season long what purpose acquiring Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh served if the Ravens only use each sparingly. Boldin only had five catches in the last four games.
Today, Cameron, Flacco and the Ravens offense will answer that question. Remember who caught the game winning TD in week four against the Steelers? It's funny how veterans show up at the most important times.
I look for each to make a big play today but don't forget about the veteran receiver on the other side either Ravens fans. He's number 86 in case you forgot.
How do the Ravens stop or neutralize the Steelers pass rush you ask?
Two to three step drops by Flacco with quick releasing patterns across the wide open middle. Ray Rice, LeRon McClain and Heap will be used to neutralize the pass rush off of the edge.
McClain, the best blocking back on the Ravens, missed the December game with a bad ankle but he and Heap are healthy today.
The Ravens will not beat the Steelers if they try to run the ball. The Steel Curtain had the fifth best rushing defense in NFL history this season and it simply won’t happen.
The Ravens can hit an occasional six to 10 yard run as long as they run the ball while they have the Steelers spread out.......That’s the key Ravens fans, spread them out.
If the Ravens don't, then it could be a long day in Pittsburgh.
Defensively, don't expect the Ravens to chase Ben Roethlisberger all day. Greg Mattison will try to take away the deep threat of Mike Wallace while putting emphasis on stopping the run.
As for Roethlisberger, he only beats the Ravens running around in the pocket, so don't look for them to chase him, allowing Big Ben to extend the play.
They may let him stand back there and have Suggs spy him. Unless they know they can hit him.
I do think a safety makes another big play today but that safety would be Ed Reed, not Polamalu. As long as Reed doesn't try to lateral the interception the Ravens will be just fine.
Ravens 27-Steelers 17
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