Rivals for years, the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers have always been similar teams with the same kind of philosophy: punch the other team in the mouth, run the football, and command the ball in every category of the game.
Especially when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, with the Ravens and the Steelers controlling the tempo of the game and keeping their opponents off the scoreboard.
In the NFL in the salary cap era, players come and go. But for years, these two teams have had the same scheme and philosophy defensively.
“I will say this about our identity and I think it’s been established,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in the team’s weekly release. “We want to be a physical football team, a fundamentally sound football team and rough and tough in everything we do.”
The Ravens have had Chris Mcalister, Duane Starks, Rod Woodson, Jamie Sharper, Peter Boulware, Michael McCrary, Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa, Adalius Thomas ,Samari Rolle, and Bart Scott all lining up and playing at a high level on the Ravens defense.
Meanwhile, the Steelers have had destructive pass rushers and quality linebackers like Joey Porter, Kendrell Bell, Jason Gildon, and good system corners in DeShea Towsend and Chad Scott.
And of course there have been the stalwarts over the years in Baltimore in safety Ed Reed, LB Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and LB Ray Lewis.
For the Steelers, fellow tackling machine James Farrior has made a name for himself since coming over from the Jets earlier in his career, Casey Hampton and DE Aaron Smith command so much attention in the middle when they play, and James Harrison and Troy Polamalu have garnered national attention as one of the best defenders in the league.
Since 2000, the Steelers rank first in total defense, allowing 280 yard per game, while the Ravens are right behind them with 283 yard allowed.
During that span, the Ravens have allowed a league-low 286 TDs, while the Steelers are right behind them with 309 scores against them.
The Ravens have allowed the fewest points per game (17 ppg.) while the Steelers again trail Baltimore (17.3). The Ravens also have the most takeaways since 2000 with 339 and interceptions (213).
The two teams have used each other as models as to how to play the game the right way, as both teams have won Super Bowls in this decade.
“If you see what Pittsburgh is doing now, you win with defense in this league. That has not changed,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said. ”
It’s all about stopping teams on defense…I think we can continue to do that, because those are the ingredients to winning, and that’s what we’re doing in Baltimore.”
And as the Ravens come into Pittsburgh on Sunday, Baltimore boasts the league’s top defense yet again, allowing 244 ypg. and also holding their opponents to a league low 30% conversion rate on third down.
Pittsburgh’s defense meanwhile has the most turnovers(10) on their resume as well as the best turnover ratio(+6).
With these two top defenses, Sunday’s Ravens-Steelers should be close as it always has been. In three of their last four meetings, the margin of victory has been a field goal.
Last season, both contests between the AFC North foes were decided by three points, with a Ravens win on November 29th in overtime(20-17) and a December 27th Steelers victory (23-20).
And in the contests between those teams, it has been much like it was last year. The Baltimore-Steelers rivalry has always been a see-saw, back-and-forth battle.
Only three times over the last 8 years has one of the teams swept the season series, with Baltimore winning twice against the Steelers in 2006, and the Steelers won a trio of games against the Ravens in 2008-2009, including the the AFC Championship game, and they won each contest in 2002.
In the overall series, the Steelers lead in wins 17-11, but those stats are a big slighted toward Pittsburgh as the Steelers often took advantage of a young expansion team in the late 90′s.
But the numbers do not look good in Pittsburgh for the Ravens. In Pittsburgh, the Ravens are 4-10 all-time-including 0-2 in the postseason-as opposed to when the Ravens host the Black and Gold, when the series is tied 7-7.
If anything, the Ravens are looking to leave an impression on the Steelers even if Pittsburgh should go on top Sunday at Heinz Field.
But with first place on the line in the AFC North, the Ravens would like the opportunity to grab that chance when they can on top of drawing some attention their way.
“Respect isn’t given. It’s earned,” LB Ray Lewis said. “We’re not here to be liked. But when we get off the field, we will be respected.”
Tune into WNST and WNST.net as we continue to track the Ravens as they play a huge divisional game against the rival Steelers on Sunday! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!
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