The Baltimore Ravens have beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers three straight times, including the last three in Pittsburgh. The last time the Steelers beat the Ravens was in December of 2010, when they pulled a 13-10 victory out of the grasp of a Joe Flacco fumble late in the game.
Since then, the Ravens have owned Pittsburgh, starting off the 2011 season with a 35-7 thumping, and adding a lung-collapsing last minute 23-20 win in front of their shocked home-town fans. Baltimore started off the 2012 rivalry with another close 13-10 win at Heinz Field, albeit without their star QB.
Now, the Steelers come into Baltimore Sunday afternoon sporting an average 6-5 record, three games behind the AFC North leading Ravens at 9-2. A Ravens will guarantees them an current NFL-record 5th straight playoff appearance and a Cincinnati Bengals loss to the San Diego Chargers clinches a repeat as division champions.
So after three straight wins overall including three on the road in Pittsburgh, are the Steelers really a viable rival for the Ravens? Perhaps the growing competition between Baltimore and the New England Patriots or the Houston Texans is replacing the one with the Steelers for intensity and competition?
The Ravens beat the Patriots on a last second field goal this year, but lost to them in the AFC Championship Game last season. The Ravens beat the Texans in last year's playoffs but were embarrassed by Houston earlier this season. Rematches with either or both seem unavoidable in the post season and appear to present more of a challenge than this Sunday's game with Pittsburgh.
Will a win put the intensity of this rivalry behind those with the two aforementioned teams? Will Steelers Week be replaced with Texans or Patriots Week anytime soon? Another close game and perhaps this one-sided rivalry will continue as long as the games remain competitive. The last five games at Heinz Field have been decided by exactly three-points and while they haven't always been as close here in Baltimore, the games are always hard-fought regardless of the outcome.
If the rivalry continues, then so be it. Both teams need each other to be competitive, so perhaps there is a sense of actually rooting for it to be a close game and for each team to remain among the league's best to further perpetuate the rivalry. However, here in Baltimore, we see the tide turning and while Steelers fans will never admit to that and will continue to remind us of their six rings, Ravens fans are the ones smiling now for a change.
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