Last year the Ravens and Steelers split in the regular season, and the Steelers defeated the Ravens in the rubber match in the playoffs.
Since 2004, the Steelers are 9-2 against the Baltimore Ravens when Ben Roethlisberger starts, including seven straight victories since 2006. Roethlisberger is the perfect quarterback for the Steelers because of his size, toughness, mobility and clutch play.
The only two times the Ravens have beaten the Steelers when Roethlisberger started 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, Roethlisberger has beaten them every time he's faced them, including a game in 2007 in which he threw five touchdowns in the first half and finished the game with a perfect quarterback rating.
What Big Ben specializes in is making special/clutch plays against Baltimore. In their postseason matchup last year, with the game tied with just over two minutes to go, Roethlisberger completed a 58-yard pass to Antonio Brown on third and 19, propelling Pittsburgh to victory.
For his career against the Baltimore, Roethlisberger has 17 touchdown passes to nine interceptions, with a QB rating of 87.4. He also has six game-winning drives against the Ravens. The games might not always be pretty, but Big Ben always seems to be able to make that one play that makes a difference in the game.
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers have the other difference-maker in Polamalu. Pardon my bias, but even though he has a hard time staying healthy, I believe that no other defender in the league impacts the game as much as Polamalu. 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. Polamalu 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 Polamalu made a ridiculous play on an attempted quarterback sneak on a 4th-and-1 for the Ravens. Polamalu 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 last year in Baltimore, Polamalu 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, running in free and untouched with 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 win at Heinz Field last season—that much is true. However, you have to consider that not only did Troy make no big plays in that game, but the Steelers were also without 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 Sunday. Because of these two special players, I like the Steelers' chances.
Steelers 20, Ravens 13
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