In what has become the greatest rivalry in the NFL in the past few years the Ravens travel to the Steelers for the third time this season.
Whenever the Steelers and Ravens collide you are guaranteed four things 1. Hard hits 2. Great defense 3. A Close finish and 4. Hard hits.
Yes, I listed hard hits twice.
The Ravens-Steelers games are the most physical of match ups in the league. Nobody can match the two team's hatred of each other or their desire to knock the other out of the playoffs. During the last meeting between the two teams in the regular season, Todd Heap went off injured early in the first quarter with a hamstring injury before Ben Roethlisberger suffered a broken nose at the hands of Haloti Ngata
while Heath Miller was concussed on an illegal hit from Jameel McClain.
That matchup in M&T Bank Stadium was no abnormality as the last playoff meeting between the two has been referred to as the most physical and brutal game ever played by some commentators in America. During the game Steelers' then rookie Wide Receiver Limas Sweed hit cornerback Corey Ivy and knocked him out.
In the dying moments Ryan Clark also lay a hit on Ravens tough runningback Willis McGahee that resulted in him being carted off the field after laying motionless on the ground for a few minutes.
The Steelers and Ravens have a history of these hits and there are countless instances of brutal hits that have resulted in injuries and fines. What makes this game so special is that it is often a clean contest. Outside of Jameel McClain's hit on Miller, the examples above are all legal hits, or were legal at the time.
Both teams are very evenly matched as the past 17 games has resulted in 9 Pittsburgh victories and 8 Ravens victories while both teams have scored 302 points in that time. Each team won 1 of their 2 regular season fixtures thanks to late touchdowns. It is a dying matchup in the league as there are not many dominant defensive teams left because of the change in offensive scheme and NFL rules that benefit and protect offenses.
You can predict the outcome of this one as much as you like but it's always one play either way so I won't waste my time trying to figure it out. One thing is certain, the Ravens will need to be wary of Troy Polamalu as he has been the difference in these games for the Steelers...
...while the Ravens need Joe Flacco to step up if they are going to win.