Steelers know what to expect in their divisional playoff game -- a tough, physical battle vs. Ravens
January 10, 2011 5:00 AM
Hines Ward mixes it up with the Ravens Ray Lewis during a game earlier this season in Baltimore.
By Gerry Dulac Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers defense watched tape of the Kansas City Chiefs offense Sunday morning, just to familiarize themselves with the Chiefs in case they would be coming to Heinz Field Saturday for an AFC divisional playoff game.
They didn't have to do that with the Baltimore Ravens. They already are familiar with their division opponent.
"We know what that is," inside linebacker James Farrior said, referring to the Ravens.
For the second time in three years, the AFC North Division rivals will meet for the third time in the same season after the Ravens beat the Chiefs, 30-7, Sunday in a wild-card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
When they met in the postseason in 2008, the Steelers defeated the Ravens, 24-13, in the AFC championship at Heinz Field -- a game that sent them to Super Bowl XLIII and an unprecedented sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy. This time, it will be for the right to advance to the conference championship -- one step shy of the Super Bowl.
The Steelers have never lost a playoff game to the Ravens, also beating them in a 2001 divisional playoff game, 27-10, at Heinz Field. What's more, they are 8-1 in their past nine wild-card or divisional playoff games at home, including 4-1 at Heinz Field.
"They run the ball and they [have] a good defense -- that's a good formula to have, especially in the playoffs," said Farrior, leader of a defense that ranked No. 1 against the rush and No. 2 overall in the NFL. "That's why our games are so close, we feel we do the same thing."
Indeed, five of the past six regular-season games between the Steelers and Ravens have been decided by three points, including both this season. The other was decided by four.
The Steelers split their season series with the Ravens, losing Oct. 3, 17-14, at Heinz Field when Joe Flacco threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 36 seconds remaining.
They won the Dec. 5 rematch, 13-10, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore when Troy Polamalu stripped the ball from Flacco to set up Isaac Redman's 9-yard catch-and-run from Ben Roethlisberger for the winning touchdown with 2:51 remaining. That game gave the Steelers control of the AFC North and eventually the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, even though both teams finished the regular season with 12-4 records.
"It's just ultimate confusion when we play -- they're trying to confuse us and we're trying to confuse them," said Roethlisberger, who did not throw an interception in his final 158 attempts of the regular season. "Their defense is all over the place. Guys are here, guys are there, all of a sudden this guy is over here and 20 guys are blitzing.
"That's the biggest thing with Baltimore. Then you add the physical stuff. I don't mind that ... I can take hits. It's tough."
The Ravens have had good success with road playoff games, posting a 4-2 record since Flacco became the quarterback in 2008. His only defeat was in the 2008 AFC title game when the Steelers sacked him three times and had three interceptions.
Flacco passed for 265 yards and the Ravens rushed 40 times for 142 yards Sunday against the Chiefs.
Bettis up for Hall
Former running back Jerome Bettis was among the 17 finalists named Sunday for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011. Bettis, who is eligible for the first time, joins former Steelers center Dermontti Dawson as one of the finalists.
This is the third consecutive year Dawson, a six-time All-Pro, has been a finalist.
After a two-day break, the Steelers held a one-hour practice Sunday. The players are off today and will resume practice Tuesday.
Running back Mewelde Moore (knee) returned to practice after sitting out last week and should play against the Ravens. Moore was injured in the season finale in Cleveland.
Rookie outside linebacker Jason Worilds (knee), who also was injured against the Browns, worked lightly but did not participate in team drills. His status is unknown.