Another Round of Bruises, Insults, Titles

Division rivals, the Steelers and Ravens, will meet once again in the postseason as they had in 2001 and 2008. The Steelers won both games.

Fittingly, Pittsburgh and Baltimore will meet for a third time this season Saturday at Heinz Field to determine who advances to the AFC Championship Game.

The two teams have been trading bruises, insults and division championships for years as they dominated the AFC North (nee: Central) Division over the past decade. For the third time in the decade and second time in three seasons they will meet in the playoffs.

One or the other has won the division crown eight of the past 10 seasons.

"The Jets and the Patriots are great teams, but they're just getting started," Steelers receiver Hines Ward said back in December. "This has been going on for years. We play them two, sometimes three times a year, and every one of them comes down to the end. I'm sure we'll see them again in the playoffs."

The Steelers and Ravens have split their two regular-season games the past two seasons after Pittsburgh swept three games in 2008, including a victory in the AFC Championship Game on the way to their sixth Super Bowl victory.

Each of their past four games has been decided by three points and all seven have come down to the final minutes. The Ravens won in Pittsburgh on a last-minute drive, 17-14, on Oct. 3, and the Steelers returned the favor in Baltimore on a spectacular Troy Polamalu sack/fumble late in the game that set up their only touchdown to win, 13-10.

"We believe that's the No. 1 rivalry in football," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. "It's a humbling thing to be a part of ... We have big-time respect for that football team, they've earned it. Hopefully, we've earned their respect."

Pittsburgh has won both post-season games played against Baltimore, each at Heinz Field - a 2001 playoff and the 2008 AFC Championship Game.

The Steelers won six of the past 10 division titles and made the playoffs seven of the past 10 years. Baltimore has made the playoffs six of the past 10 years, including two division championships.

The teams have often mirrored each other - they have had two of the best defenses in football over the past decade and each like to think they love to run the ball.

"This could be the biggest rivalry in sports," Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs declared in December. "I think we passed the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in baseball."

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had his nose broken during the last game in December but never missed a snap.

"One time after a play, I looked at (Suggs), and he was bleeding from the mouth," Roethlisberger said. "I was bleeding from the nose. That says it all about a Ravens-Steelers football game."

BY THE NUMBERS: Plus 14 - Steelers turnover ratio in 2010, a turnaround from 2009 when they were minus 3. "You take one away or you give one more, we could be a 3-13 team rather than a 12-4 team," safety Troy Polamalu said.

TRENDING: The return of Roethlisberger after his four-game suspension, the maturing of rookie receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, combined with better line play has helped the Steelers' passing game improve from an average of 181.9 net yards per game in the first half of the season to 268.3 yards in the final eight games.


* RB Rashard Mendenhall ran for 1,273 yards, seventh-most in team history, on 324 carries, fifth-most in team history, and rushed for 13 touchdowns, tied for second-most in team history.

* RB Mewelde Moore, who missed the Steelers' regular-season finale with a sprained knee, has returned to practice and should be available for Saturday's playoff game.

* WR Antwaan Randle El did not score a TD in 2010, but both of his passes went for scores. His two TD passes brought his career passing record to 22 of 27 for 323 yards, six TDs and a near-perfect rating of 156.1.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger has a career record of 7-2 against Baltimore, including one playoff victory. Both losses came in the 2006 season. He did not play in Baltimore's victory in the fourth game of this season, the last game of his suspension.

* DE Aaron Smith, out since Oct. 24 with torn triceps that required surgery, will not return in time to play in the game against Baltimore.

Steel City Insider Top Stories