Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens – Rivalry Renewed

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First of all, I would like to say hello again to any readers I may have had prior to my brief yet extremely painful sabatical from NPC. I’m happy to be back and would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Craig and the other writers of NPC for welcoming me back with open arms.

They say familiarity breeds contempt and that could not be more true than in the matchup between the Steelers and the Ravens. The teams are so similar that it is scary.

They each play suffocating defense and have a run-first mindset on offense. The Steelers have had the better of the matchup in recent years thanks to incredible plays on both sides of the ball.

What Has Happened

As much as any readers who have the misfortune of being Ravens fans might not like to admit it, the Steelers have pretty much owned the Ravens recently. In thier last 10 meetings, the Steelers have won seven times.

Joe “The Unibrow” Flacco, has never beaten Big Ben head to head. The Steelers’ losses in the last 10 games have come when Ben was not in the lineup due to injury, possibly-unfair suspension, or the fact that the Steelers were locked into a playoff spot and had no reason to play their starters.

Despite the fact that the Mighty Black and Gold seem to come out on top most of the time, games against the Ravens are rarely boring and almost never one-sided. The last time a Steelers-Ravens game was decided by more than nine points was November 2007.

In the nine games since the last blowout, the total margin of victory was 41 points. That equates to an average margin of victory of only 3.4 points per game. That’s right, devoted Citizens of The Nation: Most of the time, when the Steelers and Ravens play, the game comes down to a single scoring drive.

What is slightly amazing is how few overtime games they have played!

The Steelers are riding a two-game winning streak opening this season, but have only a .500 record in the last two games in “Charm City.” (Puh-lease! Who came up with that nickname for Baltimore? I lived there and I can attest that there is a noticable lack of anything charming about the place.)

The last game in Baltimore featured a couple of non-calls by the referees, notably Ravens’ defensive guard Haloti Ngata breaking Ben Roethlisberger’s nose and an attempted decapitation of Heath Miller. What happened to those “defenseless receiver” calls that were so popular against James Harrison and company?

The last meeting, in the ‘Burgh was in the division round of the playoffs. The Steelers were sloppy and sluggish in the first half, and spotted the Ravens a 21-7.

The second half was a completely different story as the Steeler Curtain ver. 2010 put the clamps on the Ravens holding them to a mere 10:59 time of possession and three points.

The offense exploded for 24 points in the final two frames and the Steelers took the game, 31-24.

What’s Going to Happen When the Ravens Have the Ball

Joe Flacco has some new faces in his huddle, including RB Ricky Williams and FB Vonta Leach, who will presumably take the roles of the departed Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain, respectively. WR Lee Evans, who was traded to the Ravens for a draft pick, and rookie receivers Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss are also among the new additions.

Gone from the receiving corps are Donte Stallworth, Derrick Mason (the poor man’s Hines Ward), and Ravens’ all-time leading receiver Todd Heap.

Evans doesn’t have the wheels he once had, so he will probably be taking Mason’s place as the possession receiver. That will leave the youngsters, Smith and Doss, as the deep threats.

Most receivers do not hit their prime until their third year in the league. The rookies may have a couple catches, but in their first real NFL game, they will be lost for the most part. That will leave Evans and the running game to try to beat the top-ranked Steelers defense.

RB Ray Rice is a excellent back. He is low to the ground and hard to tackle unless you square up to him. He has not had a lot of success against the Steelers, but then again, not many backs have recently. The real danger with Rice is stopping him out of the backfield as a receiver.

Ricky “Weedy” Williams was brought in as the “thunder” to Rice’s “lightning,” but he is 34 now and will probably find it as hard as everyone else does to run on the Steel Curtain.

If you have ever watched a Steelers game, you know that nobody runs on the Steelers. You can be sure the game plan will be to stop Rice/Williams and make Flacco try to beat the Steelers through the air.

Adding to the Ravens’ woes is the fact that they have already had a couple injuries on their offensive line. Michael “The Blind Side” Oher will be the Ravens’ starting right tackle. That means instead of dealing with “Silverback” James Harrison, he is going to have to contend with Lamarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons. Lucky guy.

If there is a way to beat the Steelers, through the air is the way. However, since Flacco has not proven that he has the ability to do that consistently, I’m going to say the Ravens will score 13 points on offense and turn the ball over twice. One of those will go for a touchdown.