Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. Baltimore Ravens: 6 Reasons The Steelers Will Roll
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will face off for the third time this season in their quest for the Lombardi Trophy. Playing in what many describe as one of the fiercest rivalries in professional sports, the winner of this contest will have truly earned the right to advance to the AFC Conference Championship.
These are six reasons why the Steelers are the team that will advance while the Ravens will see their season end and the off season begin.
#6: Improvements at The Kicker Position
In a match up that is destined to be decided by a field goal or less, the kickers in this game are more important than anywhere else this playoff weekend.
Shaun Suisham has greatly improved the kicking game for Pittsburgh after taking over for Jeff Reed midway through the season. While Reed's missed kicks in Pittsburgh's week four loss to Baltimore were the difference in that game Suisham has converted 14 of15 (93%) of his attempts including 6 of 7 at the notoriously difficult Heinz Field.
Reed only made 15 of 22 (68%) including 4 of 9 at Heinz Field before he was released after the New England loss. Taking nothing away from Billy Cundiff and the fantastic season he has had, but Suishams addition may give the Steelers the extra boost needed to pull out a close victory this weekend.
#5: History Is on Pittsburgh's Side
The Steelers have never lost to the Ravens in the post season and although it's only 2-0, it matters.
The quotes coming out of Baltimore this week from Terrell Suggs reveal an insecurity that the Ravens don't exhibit against any other team but Pittsburgh. Remarks about "Armageddon" and "World War III" and comments about Roethlisberger like, "He's definitely my biggest problem I'm facing" are an indication that the Steelers may be in the Ravens' heads.
Suggs' comments are beginning to cross over jealousy to outright envy, leaving respect and admiration miles behind to be tended to by Harbaugh and Flacco. Doesn't it seem that, deep down, Suggs would love to wear the Black and Gold and have the respect that comes along with it?
I haven't seen someone wear their repressed emotions on their sleeve so blatantly since the 80's when Boy George wore make up and dresses while swearing he was in to women.
#4: The Steelers Are Well Rested
Since 1993 the Steelers win 74% (18-7) of all games coming off a bye including a 6-0 record in the divisional round of the playoffs as a #1 or #2 seed.
Getting Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and company an extra week of rest while their opponent traveled to Kansas City and now back to Pittsburgh gives the Steelers a real advantage and in a contest that is otherwise so evenly balanced it could make the difference the team needs to win.
#3: Troy Is Back!
After injuries kept him on the sidelines of the majority of the 2009 season, Troy Polamalu has returned and produced one of the best seasons of his remarkable career. He tied his career high with 7 interceptions and seemed to always put himself in the right place at the right time to make the play the Steeler defense needed.
Whether he is timing the snap and diving over interior linemen to disrupt the quarterback or slicing in off the edge to cut down the ball carrier, he is the "X" factor that Flacco and the Ravens offense must account for if they hope to compete.
The first round bye probably helped him more than any other Steeler so expect no limitations come Saturday when the Ravens visit.
#2: Steelers Run Defens/Pass Rush Combination
James Harrison has had another Pro Bowl season and LaMarr Woodley always seems to turn it up a notch in the playoffs and has registered 2 sacks in each of his four career playoff games.
The Steelers have only surrendered 100 yards rushing to an opposing team two times this season and in two games the Ravens only managed 2.4 YPC on the ground against Pittsburgh. Holding opponents to minimal gains on first down runs sets their opponents up for 3rd and longs and lets Harrison and Woodley pin their ears back and wreak havoc on the quarterbacks.
With Timmons drawing coverage duties on Heap, Flacco won't have as many options as he did last week against Kansas City.
#1: Big Ben Knows Baltimore
Ben is 6-0 in his last 6 contests against the Ravens with a 10-3 TD/INT ratio and has learned how to get enough out of his offense to earn his team the victory.
These battles are always hard hitting affairs but don't discount Pittsburgh's passing attack with the dynamic Mike Wallace taking over for Santonio Holmes and improving the offense vertically.
Hines Ward and Heath Miller are reliable pros that have produced in big games before and having Randle El on the field at critical times as a fourth or fifth option is a luxury most teams would dream of.