Keep it here on Baltimore Beatdown all afternoon to post your thoughts on today's game in this 'Open Thread.'
Better buckle up those chinstraps and turn up the volume on the surround sound to feel every hit that these two teams will guarantee to deliver this afternoon because IT IS ON! The Baltimore Ravens travel to Heinz Field to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in their second match up of the 2009 NFL season and it is sure to be just another classic of what we see as the best rivalry in the NFL nowadays.
True, old school football with both teams bringing the pain on every play. This game is not for the faint of heart, as it always seems that at least one player is laid out on the field until they stretcher him off and a bunch more limp to the sidelines wondering if anyone got the license plate of the truck that just hit them.
Today, both teams are smack dab in the middle of the hunt for the playoffs The Ravens sit at the top of the heap in the Wild Card race and still have a slim shot at the AFC North title. The Steelers sit at the bottom of the Wild Card race and will need to win out and hope a bunch of other things happen to get them in the post season. In the playoffs, anything can happen and you can be sure the rest of the AFC would be a lot happier if these two teams were sitting home come the end of the regular season.
However, little of that matters when these two face each other, as the stats mean nothing because the players on both teams actually do not like each other and certainly want to have bragging rights until next year The Ravens had to endure losing to the Steelers three times last year and that stung a lot more than watching Pittsburgh win the Super Bowl. Now Baltimore has the chance to prove beating Pittsburgh without Ben Roethlisberger was not a fluke and sweep them for the first time since 2006. The Steelers and their faithful would like to return the favor by knocking us down the playoff chain and improving their chances at the same time.
The Ravens are a better balanced team on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the Ravens at least have a running game to complement or better yet, lead their passing game. Ray Rice is near the top of the league in rushing and all-purpose yards and is also one of Joe Flacco's favorite targets out of the backfield. While the Steelers are rated #1 against the run, their passing defense is their weak link and although the Ravens should still be able to run the ball with some sort of success, they key will be how well we are able to pass the ball without making any critical mistakes, such as turnovers in the Red Zone, which has plagued Flacco in the team's frustrating close losses this season. The Steelers boast a very good passing attack but also need to rely heavily on it to win, as their running game has not been solid this year and appears to be an afterthought of the Steelers' game plan. The key for the Ravens defense is not only to put pressure on Big Ben, but to bring him down when they do get their hands on him. Somehow, he always seems to slip out of the grasp of tacklers time and time again to complete that key completion to either keep drives alive or win the game.
If the Ravens win the turnover battle and can put any resemblance of pass pressure on Roethlisberger, they have a very good chance to win this game and secure a playoff spot by the end of the weekend to make next week's game in Oakland meaningless. A Ravens win combined with a Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets' losses clinches a Wild Card slot at the very least with an outside chance at the AFC North title, provided the Cincinnati Bengals lose this week and next while we sweep these last two games.
But today, it's all about the black and gold and the chance to take out all those frustrations of earlier losses this year much less the constant reminders of what Pittsburgh did to us last season. Today we exact revenge and own the trash talking until the 2010 season. Today, the Ravens show what they were supposed to be doing all season long. The last two games, despite being against sub-par opponents, proved the Ravens can dominate, as they outscored their opponents 79-10, without allowing a defensive touchdown, and are now the second most stingiest team in the league and the top rated defense over the past two months.