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In the first half of Sunday's game, the Baltimore Ravens were forcing mistakes out of the Pittsburgh Steelers and making them pay for them. The second half couldn't have been any more different for the Ravens, who dropped easy catches and gave away the ball throughout the third and fourth quarters. The Steelers made the most of it to come from behind and win in front of their Heinz Field faithful, 31-24.
Semi-blown coverage allowed Ben Roethlisberger to launch a deep throw in the fourth quarter and put his Steelers in position for the go-ahead touchdown. A dropped pass by Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin in the end zone was easily catchable. On the last meaningful play of the game, T.J. Houshmandzadeh dropped an easy Joe Flacco pass that would have kept his team alive. The team surrendered three second-half turnovers. It was a profound meltdown for Baltimore, who led 21-7 on the road at halftime.
Meanwhile, the Steelers, who had a listless first half, relied on big plays and a loud stadium to pull momentum back in their direction. They will move on to face the winner of Sunday's Jets-Patriots game in the AFC Championship.
With the score tied at 24, and just over two minutes left in the game, the Pittsburgh Steelers faced a third-and-19 situation in their own territory. They elected to call a time out. It was a clock stoppage that the Baltimore Ravens, who seemed likely to receive a punt, surely appreciated.
Clearly, they weren't counting on Ben Roethlisberger to convert on third-and-long, and they certainly didn't count on him finding Antonio Brown to set up a first-and-goal. Big Ben did just that, launching a rocket to Brown, who had managed to gain space in the secondary and take the ball deep in Baltimore territory.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall was stuffed short of the goal line twice in a row, as the Ravens continued to minimize his effectiveness. And then, Mendenhall was sent up the gut yet again, and managed to will himself into the end zone.
An unsportsmanlike penalty, however, is going to back up the ensuing Steelers kickoff. The Ravens are down 31-24, and set to receive the ball with 1:33 remaining.
Well, we're nearly three quarters into a bizarre game on Saturday. The Steelers and Ravens are tied at 21, thanks in large part to turnovers. Much of the first half was all Baltimore, but in front of an invigorated Heinz Field crowd, the Steelers have forced a pair of turnovers of their own to knot the game at 21.
In the third quarter, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco made an extremely ill-advised throw, attempting to get the ball to tight end Todd Heap. Heap was in double-coverage, Flacco missed him by a good margin, and the Steelers' Ryan Clark was there to make his second huge play of the game and haul in an easy interception.
Once again, the Steelers took over within the Ravens' 30-yard line. After a couple of short passes, Ben Roethlisberger tossed a touchdown pass to receiver Hines Ward.
As if Heinz Field weren't loud enough, the Ravens fumbled away the ball away after receiving possession. It was Baltimore's third turnover of the quarter. As the fourth quarter begins, the Steelers have the ball and the momentum.
The first-half fates of the Steelers and Ravens were governed by turnovers. The same is the case early in the second half, but to the delight of Heinz Field faithful, Pittsburgh was finally the beneficiary. The Steelers made sure to capitalize, cutting the Ravens' lead to 21-14.
Baltimore running back Ray Rice had not fumbled throughout 307 regular-season carries, but Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark managed to smack the ball out of his arm. The Steelers took over at the Ravens' 23-yard line, and Rashard Mendenhall, perhaps wishing to atone for his play in the first half, took the ball and rumbled for a 14-yard gain.
On the next play, Ben Roethlisberger threw his first touchdown of the game, a nine-yard strike to wide-open tight end Heath Miller. The Heinz Field crowd, which hadn't had anything to cheer about in some time, erupted.
Heinz is still deafening, in fact, and the Steelers seem to be taking on new life. On the ensuing drive, James Harrison sacked Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, and the front line stuffed Willis McGahee for a loss. Baltimore was forced to punt, and Pittsburgh now has the ball.
The first half of Saturday's Steelers-Ravens game has been dominated by penalties and turnovers. Both teams have seen drives aided by flags, but Baltimore has made the most of a pair of Pittsburgh turnovers, and they head into the locker room at halftime with a 21-7 lead on the road.
The Steelers have outgained the Ravens in total offense, 114 yards to 98, but Baltimore's defense has scored one defensive touchdown and put them in prime position to score another. Joe Flacco has been competent behind center, completing 12 of 18 passes for 82 yards.
The Ravens' defense is doing a great job of neutralizing the Steelers' running game. In addition to fumbling away the ball, Rashard Mendenhall has taken the ball 10 times for only 27 yards.
We're seeing a lot of flags so far. Combined, these teams have been penalized nine times for 120 yards. In addition, there have been a couple of instances in which some pushing and shoving could conceivably have resulted in a couple more flags.
The Pittsburgh Steelers entered Saturday's playoff game having caused 17 more turnovers than they'd surrendered. In fewer than two quarters, the Baltimore Ravens have coughed two out of them, and as a result, they have taken a 21-7 lead.
Following the Steelers' disastrous mini-drive that ended with a Ravens touchdown, they were forced to punt on their next possession. The Ravens then booted a punt of their own, after which Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall continued to shoulder much of the offensive load.
On his 10th carry of the game, Mendenhall lost the football, and Baltimore emerged from the dog pile with the football. The Ravens took advantage of the Steelers' second turnover of the day, as a 16-yard drive ended with a short touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Todd Heap.
Pittsburgh is looking at a two-touchdown deficit. They are driving with the ball as we near halftime.
So far, Saturday's AFC division playoff game has been dominated by penalties. After the Pittsburgh Steelers' opening drive was greatly assisted by a pass interference call, the Baltimore Ravens received one of their own to drive into enemy territory. Less than 30 game-seconds later, the Ravens' Terrell Suggs and Cory Redding collaborated on a huge defensive touchdown, and the Ravens lead, 14-7.
Throughout their touchdown drive, the Ravens found themselves in several precarious situations. An offensive pass interference call set Joe Flacco's offense back at first-and-20 at their own 22. Near midfield, a sack stuck them with a third-and-15 situation. Both times, though, Baltimore found a way around it.
And then... well, we asked earlier whether the Steelers would be able to mitigate the impact of the Ravens' Terrell Suggs. On the ensuing Steelers possession, Ben Roethlisberger snapped from inside his 10-yard line. After triple-clutching and hesitating with his throw, Roethlisberger had the ball slapped out of his hand by Suggs. Officials did not whistle the play dead.
UPDATE: We have video of the play here.
There were several moments of inaction before the Ravens' Cory Redding finally decided it was a good idea to scoop up the ball and run it into the end zone. The call on the field was a touchdown, and the play was upheld after review. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin now has no more challenges for the rest of the game, which, given how large of an impact the referees have had on the game thus far, could be huge.
The Steelers have the ball with the clock running out in the first quarter.
We have seen the vaunted defenses of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens on Saturday. After one possession by each team, a reversed call on the opening kickoff, and no small amount of pushing and shoving, score round one for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh's first possession was benefited greatly when Ben Roethlisberger threw a deep pass to Mike Wallace. Wallace was unable to come up with the ball, but earned a pass interference flag. Running back Rashard Mendenhall assumed the rest of the duties from there, and after being slammed back by an impressive stop from the Ravens' Ed Reed, he finally punched his way into the end zone.
The Ravens received the opening kickoff, and in what may be a first, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin threw a challenge flag on the first play of the game. Returner Lardarius Webb wasn't whistled down until taking the ball to midfield, but a replay showed that his arm hit the ground 15 yards prior.
Quarterback Joe Flacco picked up where he left off on Saturday by zeroing in on tight end Todd Heap. Heap made good by taking a reception for 18 yards, but Flacco may have suffered from tunnel vision when he attempted to squeeze the ball to him again on third down. The ball fell incomplete, and the Ravens were forced to punt.
The Steelers lead at home in the first quarter, 7-0.
Minutes away from kickoff, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the slight favorite to win Saturday afternoon's AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. Working in the Steelers' favor: they're playing at home in Heinz Field, and thanks to their No. 2 seed in the AFC, they're entering the game with two weeks' rest.
The Ravens, however, hold a 12-4 regular-season record that's identical to Pittsburgh's. The Ravens' defense is one of the few in the league that can hold its own with the Steelers' defense. The two teams split the two games against one another this season; curiously enough, the home team lost in both games.
Bodog.com has the over/under set at 37.5, and gives the Steelers a line of 3.0. It's judged to be a much tighter contest than either of Sunday's playoff games (Bears at 10.0 over the Seahawks, and Patriots at 9.0 over the Jets.)
Given that almost every Ravens-Steelers game in recent memory has been decided by a single score, the two teams are certainly grasping for every last advantage they can squeeze out of their play-calling. Hours before Saturday's playoff game is set to kick off, though, ESPN's Bob Holtzman reports that he has learned of the Steelers' plan to run a brand-new trick play. From Pro Football Talk:
“Two Steelers have told me, if they catch the Ravens in the right defense, they have a trick play ready to go today that they’ve never run before.”
If true, that certainly isn't the sort of information that the Steelers would like to have made public before a playoff game. Of course, if a secret is important, it is probably important for players not to divulge it to a reporter.
Conspiracy theorists could perceive this as an attempt at misdirection by the Steelers, making this report a "trick play" in and of itself. Whoa! I know, right? In any case, we'll be on the lookout for a trick play this afternoon.
Hours before Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game between the Ravens and Steelers, it was announced that Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith has been ruled out with a triceps injury. Smith has not seen any action since Week 7.
Smith, one of the Steelers' most valuable defensive assets, was not placed on injured reserve by the team, as coach Mike Tomlin held out hope that he would be able to contribute in the postseason. Earlier this week, Jason La Canfora cited a source that said Smith would not be able to return prior to the Super Bowl, should the Steelers get that far:
The Steelers knew at the time that Smith's injury could have been considered season-ending, but given his importance to the team, they kept a roster spot open for the playoffs and didn't place him on injured reserve.
At FanHouse, meanwhile, J.J. Cooper notes that as good as Smith is, his absence doesn't figure to be devastating:
When healthy, he's the team's best defensive lineman, but the team has handled his absence pretty well -- they led the NFL in run defense this season thanks to the solid play of Ziggy Hood and Nick Eason, Smith's replacements.
We're now only hours away from game time. Keep up with this StoryStream before, during, and after the game for updates. And for more on these teams, check out our Steelers blog, Behind The Steel Curtain, and our Ravens blog, Baltimore Beatdown.
The rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, at this point, may be the fiercest and most dramatic in the NFL. The AFC North rivals hate one another, they boast two of the best defenses in the league, and in recent years, nearly every game has been decided by a single score.
Dating back to the 2008 season, here are the results from the last seven Ravens-Steelers games:
Dec. 5, 2010, at Baltimore: Steelers 13, Ravens 10
Oct. 3, 2010, at Pittsburgh: Ravens 17, Steelers 14
Dec. 27, 2009, at Pittsburgh: Steelers 23, Ravens 20
Nov. 29, 2009, at Baltimore: Ravens 20, Steelers 17, OT
Jan. 18, 2009, at Pittsburgh (AFC Championship): Steelers 23, Ravens 14
Dec. 14, 2008, at Baltimore: Steelers 13, Ravens 9
Sept. 29, 2008, at Pittsburgh: Steelers 23, Ravens 20, OT
It's rare to see two rivals knock heads and deliver hard-fought contests as consistently as the Ravens and Steelers have. Of particular note is the AFC Championship battle in early 2009. Take a look at a couple of hard hits from this game:
In today's NFL, these would pretty clearly be illegal blows, and it's borderline disturbing to see them within the context of increased awareness of concussion-related health issues. Aside from that, the take-away here is that these teams really, really do not like one another.
Both of these teams are as good as they've been in years, and there's every reason to expect yet another classic. Follow along with this StoryStream before, during, and after the game. And for more on these teams, check in with our Ravens blog, Baltimore Beatdown, and our Steelers blog, Behind The Steel Curtain.
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice is reportedly dealing with an illness ahead of Saturdays NFL playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to ESPN’s Bob Holtzman, Rice fell ill Friday afternoon and was vomiting at the team hotel shortly thereafter. With a 4:30 p.m. date with the Steelers at Heinz Field looming, it’s unknown whether whatever Rice is dealing with will affect his status for the game.
Rice rushed for 1,200 yards on the season, but was held in check both times the Ravens played the Steelers. In the first meeting, he tallied just 20 yards on eight carries. The second time around was marginally better, with Rice carrying the ball nine times for 32 yards and catching two passes for another 18 yards. In the Ravens playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the wildcard round, Rice rushed for 57 yards and caught five passes for 42 yards and a touchdown.
The Ravens face the Steelers, and their top-ranked run defense, on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on CBS.
Pittsburgh Steelers S Troy Polamalu is probable to play against the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The Steelers safety missed a pair of games down the stretch in the regular season though he was expected to play this week.
Polamalu practiced this week indicating he was likely to play and his injury status confirms that. Polamalu is arguably the most important player on the defense so his presence is very important.
Also on the Steelers injury report is DE Aaron Smith (doubtful) and CB Bryant McFadden (probable).
The Ravens have five players on the injury report. C Matt Birk, CB Chris Carr and S Tom Zbikowski are questionable and LB Tavares Gooden and Donte Stallworth are probable.
We already know about the war with words Baltimore Ravens' Terrell Suggs has waged on their opponents at times this year. The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't immune to some trash talking but they have to figure out how to actually stop Suggs on the field. He's having a great season and could make an argument as the best player on one of the league's best defenses.
SB Nation's Behind The Steel Curtain wonders: How can Suggs be stopped?
With all due respect to Steelers LT Jonathan Scott, he's not going to block Suggs on his own. The Steelers will employ an scheme utilizing a tight end - either Heath Miller or Matt Spaeth - along with a halfback or fullback to chip off Suggs, giving Scott some help. It wouldn't be surprising to see them run the ball at Suggs early in the game to see how he commits to it. A well-timed screen or delayed run that catches Suggs upfield could help slow him down.
They go on to call these games "methodical" which is the best way to put it. I think both sides know a field goal or even a touchdown is even more important in a game like this where the highest score of the game may not top 20 points. Both defenses are among the league's elite so if it takes you several offensive series' to set up a big play then so be it.
Keeping an eye on someone like Suggs and neutralizing him should be a priority for the Steelers. They can't let Ben Roethlisberger and Co. turn the ball over and give the field position to Baltimore. Suggs is capable of getting to the quarterback and creating a turnover so keeping him away from the backfield will be critical.
Good news for the Pittsburgh Steelers -- Troy Polamalu is expected to play. His status was uncertain with an ankle injury but he practiced this week and it appears he'll be ready to roll.
Polamalu has been dinged up late in the season missing two of the final three games due to injury. He's the best player on Pittsburgh's talented defense so his presence is obviously critical to the game. The Steelers aren't the same defense without him so even a less than 100 percent Polamalu is worth having on the field.
The Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. It's hard picture Polamalu missing this game so plan on seeing him out there.
The Baltimore Ravens beat the Kansas City Chiefs in round one of the NFL playoffs and now they move onto round two where they're on the road again against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens are a road-tested team winning four road playoff games in the last three seasons and they'll be looking to make that five in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers are a three point favorite as the home team but this isn't an easy game to pick. Because the Ravens have shown they can clearly be successful on the road, a Pittsburgh win is no sure thing. They have played seven times in the last three years and only one of those has been by a two-score game. These two teams almost guarantee you a tough, low-scoring game.
In the end these games often come down to the quarterbacks. Both Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco are tested and have proven they can win these types of wins. I tend to side with Roethlisberger in this matchup because he's at home and he's been so consistent over the years. That's not to say Flacco can't take a game over, like he did against the Chiefs.
We're going to stick with the Ravens on the road and take Baltimore in a 13-10 victory. Truthfully, though, it could just as easily be 13-10 Pittsburgh. But we'll stick with Baltimore going on the road and beating the Steelers.
The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers will meet for a third time this year and eighth in the last three years. It's the divisional round of the playoffs with the Steelers hosting the Ravens on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on CBS. Seven of the last eight games have been within one score and both meetings this year were within three points.
Both teams are built the same way with solid quarterbacks and running backs and outstanding defenses. The Ravens went on the road and beat the Steelers in their first meeting, 17-14, while the Steelers returned the favor in Baltimore with a 13-10 victory.
The Steelers are the top ranked defense in the NFL while the Ravens are third. The Kansas City Chiefs, who were held to just seven points against the Ravens on wildcard weekend, would probably argue Baltimore could be the best in the NFL.
There aren't very many sure things in the NFL but a tough, low-scoring and close defensive game between the Ravens and Steelers is pretty close.
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