PITTSBURGH – Looks like another winter classic in Pittsburgh.
Some NFL rivalries are manufactured. Some ebb and flow depending on the teams’ records. Then there’s Ravens vs. Steelers, one that is as real as it gets. The games usually are meaningful, with an intensity that isn’t faked and a physicality that caused Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward to label it the Black and Blue Bowl.
The eighth meeting in three seasons between AFC North rivals that are alike in makeup and personality will leave the winner one victory short of the Super Bowl. The survivor of today’s AFC divisional game meets the winner of Sunday’s Jets-Patriots game in the AFC championship game on Jan. 23.
Yes, another big Ravens-Steelers game, only a month and 10 days since the last. Yet many in Baltimore and Pittsburgh couldn’t wait for it.
“Both sides know when the whistle blows, you’re going to get what we got and we’re going to get what they got,” said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, whose renowned nastiness fits perfectly into a rivalry where emotions run high and scores run low. “So, once again – I love to use this – here we go again.”
The Ravens and Steelers tied with 12-4 regular-season records, but Pittsburgh earned a first-round bye based on its superior division record – one made possible by its improbable 13-10 win in Baltimore on Dec. 5. The Ravens were within a couple of first downs of securing a 10-6 win, but Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu caused a Joe Flacco fumble that led to Ben Roethlisberger’s winning 9-yard touchdown pass with 2:51 remaining.
Just like that, a season flipped. But Steelers coach Mike Tomlin cautions the Ravens are capable of “flipping the script” in a series that’s so close, each of the last four games was decided by three points.
The combined score since 2003 is Ravens 302, Steelers 302.
Still, the Ravens are 0-2 in the postseason in Heinz Field, where new sod was put down amid a series of snowy days that followed the NHL’s Winter Classic between the Capitals and Penguins on Jan. 1.