Harris: For Steelers, another Ravens KO
By John Harris
Sunday, January 16, 2011
The Baltimore Ravens are always a threat to go all the way to the Super Bowl. Now if they can only do something about having to go through the Steelers to get there.
The Steelers forced their biggest nemesis to swallow another bitter pill in Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game at Heinz Field. It was more of the same, as the Steelers climbed off the canvas to pound the Ravens and advance to next Sunday's AFC championship game.
Down 21-7 at halftime, the Steelers rallied for an improbable 31-24 win. The satisfying victory came a month after the Steelers rallied to defeat the Ravens, 13-10, in Baltimore. And it came two years after the Steelers whipped the Ravens in the AFC title game in Pittsburgh.
In what has become the greatest rivalry in the NFL, the Steelers have proven time and again they have the Ravens' number.
Own them, actually.
"We respect the heck out of the Ravens,'' said an exceedingly polite Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who is 7-3 against Baltimore, including 2-0 in the postseason. "Styles make fights. Those two teams are (Marvin) Hagler and (Thomas) Hearns.''
Taking Tomlin's boxing analogy one more step, the Ravens again played Joe Frazier to the Steelers' Muhammad Ali.
A great fighter in his own right, Frazier never received the acclaim he was due because he fought during the same era as Ali. The pair's three heavyweight fights were epic, with Ali twice victorious.
"I told you early in the week, Hines Ward and Ben (Roethlisberger) know how to win playoff games," said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. "We didn't put them away, so we had nobody but ourselves to blame."
No matter how dominant Baltimore has played before facing the Steelers, the Ravens' rival brings out the worst in them.
How else to explain Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco fumbling the snap from center near the end of the third quarter and the ball tumbling directly to Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel at the Ravens' 23?
It was the last of three consecutive Baltimore turnovers the Steelers converted into 17 points and a 24-21 lead.
Down goes Flacco!
Down goes Flacco!
"That snap popped right into my lap,'' the bearded Keisel said with a twinkle in his eye. "I just dove to the ground, and the ball was right there. It's nice to get a good lucky bounce like that.''
A week earlier in their wild-card playoff game, the Ravens took away Kansas City's early momentum and bullied the Chiefs, 30-7.
The Steelers aren't the Chiefs.
"You can't really beat up a bully,'' explained defensive captain James Farrior regarding the Steelers' recent success against Baltimore. "We feel like we have the same attitude they have. We're never going to give up, they're never going to give up. No matter what happens, we still feel like we always have a chance.''
Trailing Baltimore by two touchdowns, the Steelers never flinched.
At halftime, the players said there was no panic in the locker room, only determination to turn the game around.
"We said there's 30 minutes of ball left,'' Keisel said. "Leave everything out on the field and come back in there with our heads held high.''
Asked if the Steelers have the Ravens' number, Keisel would only admit that the players remain confident no matter who they're playing.
"I don't know if you can say we have their number, but we did enough to win the games we needed to win,'' Keisel said. "We beat them down in Baltimore. Fought for 60 minutes (yesterday). That's what great teams do, fight to the end.''
Keisel said the Steelers' familiarity with Baltimore's offense helped fuel the comeback.
"It definitely helps when you can pick up formations they're running, if you know what type of play they're going to run,'' Keisel said. "It helps to have a good feeling for them, but they've got the same good feel for us.''
As usual, the Ravens weren't good enough against the Steelers.
John Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org