Being a fan of the Baltimore Ravens has been an emotional roller coaster since our Super Bowl 35 winning year of 2000. We have gone from Dilfer to Boller to Flacco with others sprinkled in between trying to put together a functional offense to go with our dominant defense. In 2008 the team made a move at the head coaching position firing Brian Billick and hiring John Harbaugh, the special teams coach from the Philadelphia Eagles. Choosing Harbauagh over in house option defensive coordinator Rex Ryan showed that the front office was ready to change the face of the team from a defensive unit to a more well rounded squad, and it worked. For the most part...
Enter Ben Roethlisberger and the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, a team within the division with aspirations similar to our own. The major difference, however, is that Pittsburgh has had a two-year head start with their franchise QB and unheard of stability at the defensive coordinator position. As the Ravens offense grew and got better we lost Rex Ryan to the New York Jets and Pittsburgh continued to grow on offense while their defense remained stable through Dick LeBeau. Ozzie Newsome and company continued to put the pieces together while keeping a quality product on the field as the Ravens made it to the AFC Championship Game in 2008... only to find their heated rival Pittsburgh Steelers waiting for them. John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco's story book first year together quickly came to an end as Troy Polamalu snatched their Super Bowl hopes out of the air as he and the Steelers D combined for four turnovers and beat the Ravens 23-14.
The Ravens were good enough to make the playoffs again in 2009 but only good enough to get to the 2nd round as an ill-advised pass by Flacco to Ray Rice against the Colts ended the season once again for the team from Baltimore. Then in 2010 the Ravens, having grown more confident in their young QB brought in veteran receivers Dante Stallworth and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to pair with Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason. Adding these ingredients to the mix Baltimore hoped this would be the recipe to spread the Steelers out and finally win the division and take Baltimore all the way to the Super Bowl. However, once again being faced with Big Ben and the Steelers in the 2nd round of the playoffs proved too much for Flacco and Company as the Ravens squandered a 14 point halftime lead and imploded all over the field.
As a Ravens fan these moments were stomach turning and ruined football for some of us all together as many could not even bare to watch as the Steelers made their way down "our " path to the big game. In the wake of all this many fans wanted blood. Some wanted the blood of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and some even pleaded for Harbaugh to be fired and Flacco to be benched. Did these fans remember Kyle Boller and Brian Billick at all??
Ask any Browns or Bengals fan whether it is better to have loved and lost or to never have loved at all? The Ravens are a very good football team and are always on the cusp of winning it all. That gives us hope every Sunday that no matter who we are playing we have a very good chance of not only winning the game but of putting on a dominant performance. For some reason those moments never come against Ben and the Steelers and although that hurts us as fans it also brings us together. If the Ravens were to win every game and be the best every year, as fans we would never grow closer to our team. It is these gut wrenching loses that keep us mentally on the same level as John Harbaugh and Ray Lewis because we know how they feel inside when it happens.
When the time comes for us to beat the Steelers it will be all the more sweet because we know what it is like to get so far and have it all ripped away. In Philadelphia Michael Vick knows exactly what I am talking about . When you have been on top of the game for so long you begin to take it for granted and you make mistakes. Hopefully the Ravens have made all of their mistakes already and are ready to take things to an other level. Like Vick, the Ravens should be smarter and more mature now due to what Pittsburgh has shown us. If the Ravens get up 21-7 at the half tomorrow I am betting there won't be so much chirping until the game is put away.
Ravens fans know what it's like to be winners. We know what it's like to lose big games as well and through all of this we have grown. We have grown closer to our team and closer to each other. whether we win or lose tomorrow, as fans we will have grown. We can take this experience and use it to our advantage... no matter the outcome.