With just a few hours until the Ravens and Steelers square off on Sunday Night football, many fans in both cities are wondering if week one provided a preview or answers to tonight's contest.
The answer is yes, and if you think the Baltimore Ravens 35-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers to start off the season was a fluke, think again. Baltimore dominated Pittsburgh on both sides of the ball, and in the process handed Mike Tomlin his worst defeat as Steelers head coach.
The Ravens ran up the score by faking an extra point into a successful two-point conversion, they continued to throw deep passing routes with a 28-point lead, and simply kicked the Steelers while they were down all day long.
After beating the New England Patriots at home last week, Pittsburgh has won five in row and are once again considered the best team in the AFC.
Many are once again raving over Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger as he recorded his second consecutive 300-yard passing game for just the second time in his career. However, Big Ben is not alone in what he accomplished against New England. He was the sixth quarterback in the last seven games to throw for 300 yards against Bill Belichick’s defense.
Like the Ravens, the Steelers have played a relatively week schedule in 2011, as the Patriots were just the third team with a winning record Pittsburgh played this season. The Steelers were 0-2 prior to playing New England, and aside from losing to the Ravens, dropped a week six contest in Houston.
The rivalry between Pittsburgh and Baltimore may be the best in professional sports. It's not as old as the Yankees and Red Sox, or Duke and Carolina, but it is certainly more physical. Tonight's contest marks the fifth straight season that one of the two games has appeared in prime time national TV.
You may remember some of those moments from the past few years—most notably the hits, clean or dirty.
Last year there was Baltimore's big defensive lineman Haloti Ngata breaking Ben Roethlisberger's nose. During a decisive win back in 2006 on MNF, Hines Ward crushed Ed Reed, causing the all-world safety to leave the field. In week one this season, Jarrett Johnson delivered a little payback to Ward as he seemingly broke the veteran wide receiver in half as Ward was trying to get out on a pass pattern.
No hit epitomizes the series more than the one Ray Lewis laid on then-rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall on Monday Night football in 2008. Before the game, Mendenhall texted Ravens running back Ray Rice to tell him he was going to have a "big day" against the Ravens. In the third quarter, Lewis broke Mendenhall's shoulder, ending the rookie's "big day" and his season. The hit, unlike many others in the series, was clean.
Mendenhall also took a viscious hit in the Steelers week one loss this year from Haloti Ngata, causing a fumble.
The dirtiest hit, or play, in the series occurred back in 2004 when Ravens tight end Todd Heap injured his ankle near the end of the first half. Instead of coming off the field, Heap limped to the line of scrimmage. Knowing that Ravens QB Kyle Boller was going to spike the ball, Heap saved the Ravens a timeout by not going down and staying on the field.
On the snap, everyone pulled up as teams when do when they know the QB is going to spike the ball. All except for Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, who pushed Heap backward. Heap fell over in pain and would go on to play in just a few games during the season.
Ironically, both are now teammates in Arizona. Last season may have provided the most drama as the Ravens had the ball and the lead with a little less than three minutes remaining in the game. Then, like he was shot out of a cannon, Troy Polamalu blitzed Joe Flacco from his blind side and forced a key fumble which led to the Steelers game-winning touchdown.
Including the playoffs, the Ravens are 13-21 all time vs. the black and gold, and despite the 28-point win by the Ravens in September, the games over the past few seasons have been close. A field goal, or missed field goal, usually decides the game.
The average margin between the winning and losing team has been under five points (4.7) in the last eight games prior to this season. Just three points has decided each of the last four regular season meetings before 2011.
The Ravens have swept the Steelers just once in their history. That occurred during the 2006 season, when Baltimore beat the Steelers by a combined score of 58-7 during their two meetings. With a victory tonight, the Ravens have a chance to duplicate that feat, and here are the reasons why they will do just that,