I realize this title and post will probably generate a ton of backlash from the Steelers fans, but of course, this blog is for us Ravens fans, so who cares!? Tomorrow's game is gearing up to be the most violent and brutal as any in history, as both teams are chomping at the bit to hit someone in a different color jersey. While most experts, radio and TV personalities are picking the Steelers to win tomorrow, they are basing this on the typical, long winded generalizations that the home field advantage and the rookie QB gibberish give the Steelers the advantage. Certainly, if you look at the trends, the statistics, the prior games and all the other evidence on paper, the edge definitely goes to the Steelers. However, everyone knows the games are not played on paper and the games just don't go as the statistics dictate. The key to the games at the end of the season are the intangibles. Who has played better the last three or four games? Who has made the breaks and the luck go their way? Who has played tougher against this type of competition? Who is hungrier for this victory?
Many Pittsburgh fans will tell you the answer to these questions are the Steelers. I'm going to tell you why they are wrong and the answers to the aforementioned questions is undoubtedly the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens last four games were at Dallas, home vs. Jacksonville, at Miami and at Tennessee. Three of four on the road, regardless of the competition. All three road games were just as or even more critical to the home team and each time the Ravens still prevailed. Baltimore needed to win those games as well, and did whatever it took to come out with the victory. They went into enemy territory and made the plays they needed to in order to win, regardless of what the final statistics showed or how the opposition moved up and down the field. Injuries, poor officiating and questionable playcalling, along with the long list of "what-ifs" mean nothing once the final whistle blows and the game is over. The Ravens have certainly been on the short end of all of these even in this crazy season, but have made them go their way in the post season. Good teams do what is needed to win the game and the Ravens have defined that so far in the playoffs.
The Steelers last three games (they had the Bye in the first round of the playoffs) were at Tennessee, home vs. Cleveland and home vs. San Diego. Two wins and one loss, but let's take a closer look at the level of competiton. Cleveland at Pittsburgh is a no brainer and just a way to rack up stats and good feelings against an opponent that really never even showed up. The win in the playoffs vs. San Diego was impressive on paper as well as on the field, but the level of competition, regardless of how well San Diego played prior to coming to Heinz Field, was significantly less than what the Steelers will be facing tomorrow. The Steelers lone loss in the past three games was at Tennessee, where there was a lot riding on the game, namely the #1 seed for the post season as well as significant confidence for what could have been another meeting for the right to go to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the Ravens just wouldn't cooperate with that expected scenerio! The one time in the past month that the Steelers faced top level competition with something significant on the line, they failed to get it done. At the same time, the Ravens have done it four weeks in a row.
The Ravens are acutely aware that everyone is saying they're tired and will not beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. People are saying we are beat up and our injuries will put us at a disadvantage. They are saying we are cocky and our rookie QB will finally fold in the face of stiff competition with such high stakes on this game. The only things the Ravens hear when all this gibberish starts is Charlie Brown's teacher saying, "...whah, whah, whah ...?" They have ignored all the doubt the entire season, which is where they adopted their playoff slogan of "What's Our Name?" Just like Muhammed Ali kept taunting Ernie Terrell throughout their title fight when Terrell refused to acknowledge his name change from Cassius Clay. As Ali pummeled him, he kept yelling, "what's my name!?" By the end of the fight, you can be sure that Ernie Terrell knew who Muhammed Ali was. Just like tomorrow, the Steelers will know exactly who the Baltimore Ravens are.
NOTE: Sorry for the late posting. I wrote this earlier today and just as I was finishing up, my computer turned off for no friggin' reason, which led me to cursing like a sailor and almost throwing it out the window.