Every game of the NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend is a regular-season rematch as both of the AFC games are between division opponents — the first time since 2000 that two games feature teams playing for a third time in a season.
The nastiest matchup of the weekend is the first on the docket: Baltimore at Pittsburgh. The teams have waged wars in the AFC North over the years, and 2010 was no exception. Each team scored 27 points total in the two games, and the games are as physical as any in the NFL over the previous decade.
The Ravens continued to have playoff success on the road as they beat Kansas City last Sunday 30-7 in New Arrowhead. It was the third straight season with at least one playoff victory for Baltimore, the only club in the NFL to do so over the period. QB Joe Flacco joined Bernie Kosar (1985-87) and Dan Marino (1983-85) to start a playoff game in each of their first three seasons in the league. The Ravens will try to advance to the AFC title game for the first time since the 2008 season.
Pittsburgh survived the loss of QB Ben Roethlisberger to a four-game suspension to get to a 3-1 start which included a home loss to the Ravens. The Steelers won six of their last seven games, including a road win at Baltimore for the division title. Roethlisberger Has thrown a personal-best 158 straight passes without an INT, the longest for the Steelers since QB Kordell Stewart had a streak of 159 consecutive pass attempts without an interception in 2001.
The teams split the regular season meetings, with the Ravens winning in Pittsburgh 17-14 in October, and the Steelers winning in Baltimore 13-10 in December.
The last time the clubs met in the playoffs, Pittsburgh advanced to Super Bowl XLII with a 23-14 victory in Heinz Field. Pittsburgh S Troy Polamalu’s 40-yard INT-TD of Flacco with 4:24 to play in the fourth quarter sealed the Steelers’ 6th AFC title.
Pittsburgh owns a 2-0 record over the Ravens in playoff games. In fact, the Steelers are undefeated (4-0) against NFL teams representing the city of Baltimore (2-0 vs. Colts – ’75 & ’76 AFC Divisional Playoff, 2-0 vs. Ravens – ’08 AFC Championship, ’09 AFC Divisional Playoff).
Thanks to the game notes produced by the two clubs’ PR staffs and notes provided by the NFL PR staff, here is a look at the key notes for the Ravens and Steelers going into the AFC Divisional Playoff Game.
RAVENS-STEELERS = EPIC BATTLES: In five of the last six games played between the Ravens and Steelers, the margin of victory has been 3 points, including both games earlier this season when the Ravens won at Pittsburgh, 17-14, and the Steelers won in Baltimore, 13-10. The fourth-game differential? Four points.
CROSSING ENEMY LINES: In just 10 all-time postseason games on the road, Baltimore has tied for the third-most away playoff victories in NFL history. In fact, Baltimore produced six playoff road wins this past decade (2000-09), tied with the Cowboys (1970s) for the most in a single decade.
MOST ROAD PLAYOFF VICTORIES (since 1960)
Road Playoff Games-Road Wins
Dallas Cowboys 23-9
Tennessee Titans 21-8
Baltimore Ravens 10-7
New England Patriots 16-7
Pittsburgh Steelers 16-7
St. Louis Rams 20-7
PLAYOFF PICKS: In 14 playoff games, the Ravens’ “D” has forced 29 INTs, including 17 thefts in their last eight postseason contests. Baltimore’s 29 INTs rank as the most in NFL postseason play since 2000, while the 551 INT return yards also stand first (NE is second with 429). Four of those picks have been returned for touchdowns.
RUN STUFFERS: The Steelers shattered the team record for rushing yards/game allowed in 2010 by giving up just 62.8 yards per game. The previous mark was 74.7 rushing yards/game set in 2001.
The Steelers ranked first in the league and allowed a season-low 30 yards rushing in Week 8 at New Orleans.
Additionally, the Steelers’ rush defense finished as one of the
best since the NFL merger. Pittsburgh’s 62.8 average is third-lowest, behind only the Ravens’ 60.6 in 2000 and the Vikings 61.6 in 2006.
IMPOSING THEIR WILL: The Steelers averaged 120.3 rushing yards per game in 2010, which ranked seventh in the AFC and 11th in the NFL.
The Steelers outrushed 14 of their 16 opponents in 2010, averaging nearly 60 more yards on the ground than their opponents.
Pittsburgh has achieved this success despite having a number of injuries to the offensive line. On the year, the Steelers started five different combinations on the offensive line.
GIMME THE BALL: The Steelers tallied 35 takeaways in 2010, which ranked second in the AFC and third (tied) in the NFL.
The Steelers ranked second in the AFC and second in the NFL with a plus-17 (+17) turnover advantage (35 takeaways, 18 giveaways).
RAVENS-STEELERS FROM THE NFL PR OFFICE: TEAMS MEET for 3rd time in postseason. Steelers are 2-0 vs. Ravens in playoffs.
RAVENS: John Harbaugh joins Barry Switzer as only head coaches in NFL history to win playoff game in each of his 1st 3 seasons … Club has 7-3 road playoff record, best postseason road winning percentage (.700) in NFL history (minimum 5 games) … QB Joe Flacco became 1st QB to start & win at least 1 playoff game in each of his 1st 3 NFL seasons. Has 4-2 postseason record. Flacco had Ravens playoff-best in passing yards (265), TD passes (2) & passer rating (115.4) last week … In past 3 postseason games, RB Ray Rice is averaging 128.3 scrimmage yards per game (283 rush, 102 receiving). Incl. playoffs, club has 14-4 record (.778) when Rice has 80+ rush yards in game. For career, Rice averages 121.4 rush yards per game when he has 25+ attempts (607 total in 5 games). RB Willis McGahee has 4 rush TDs in past 4 postseason games … WR Derrick Mason had 6 receptions for 80 receiving yards in last regular-season meeting at Pit … WR Anquan Boldin had 5 receptions for 118 yards (23.6 avg.) with 1 TD in last game vs. Steelers. In only career postseason game vs. Pit. (SB XLIII w/ Arz.), Boldin had 8 receptions for 84 yards (10.5 avg.). Recorded 2nd postseason TD reception of career last week … TE Todd Heap became 6th TE since Super Bowl era (since 1966) with 10 receptions (10) & 100 receiving yards (108) in playoff game last week … Ravens have 29 INTs in 14 postseason games, incl. 3 INTs last week … In 8 career postseason games, S Ed Reed has 7 INTs. Club allows 12.2 points per game in postseason in franchise history … Bal. has not allowed RB to gain 100+ rush yards in 14 consecutive postseason games (tied for 2nd-longest current streak, Redskins, 17; Steelers, 14) … LB Ray Lewis has 2 sacks in past 3 postseason games … LB Terrell Suggs has 7 sacks in past 6 postseason games … Ravens had 5 players selected to Pro Bowl (K Billy Cundiff, LB Lewis, DT Haloti Ngata, S Reed & LB Suggs).
STEELERS: Have won 31 postseason games, 2nd-most in NFL history (Cowboys, 33) … Pit. has 14-8 (.636) record in Divisional Playoffs … Steelers have won an NFL-record six Super Bowl titles … Club has 18-9 (.667) record at home during playoffs … QB Ben Roethlisberger is 8-2 (.800) in postseason & has completed 172 of 278 (61.9 pct.) for 2,239 passing yards w/ 15 TDs vs. 12 INTs & 87.2 passer rating. Has thrown career-best 158 consecutive passes without INT, longest such streak for Steeler since Kordell Stewart (159 consecutive passes without INT in ’01) … RB Rashard Mendenhall (1,273 rush yards, 13 rush TDs) joined Willie Parker (1,494 rush yards, 13 rush TDs in ’06) as only Steelers w/ 1,200+ rush yards & at least 13 rush TDs in season … WR Hines Ward (76) needs 1 catch to surpass HOFer Thurman Thomas (76) for 5th-most receptions in playoff history … WR Mike Wallace (7) tied HOFer John Stallworth (7 in ’84) for most 100-yard receiving games in season in Steelers history. Had career-best in catches (60), receiving yards (1,257) & TDs (10). Aims for 4th consecutive 100-yard receiving game … TE Heath Miller has 2 TD catches in 3 home postseason games … C Maurkice Pouncey became 1st Steelers rookie center to start all of his team’s games … Pit. has not allowed 100-yard rusher in 14 consecutive postseason games, tied w/ Bal. for 2nd-longest current streak (Redskins, 17) … Steelers allowed NFL-low 62.8 rushing yards per game this season, 5th-fewest rushing yards allowed per game in NFL history … LB James Harrison became 1st Steeler to post double-digit sacks in 3 consecutive seasons (16 in 2008; 10 in 2009; 10.5 in 2010) … LB LaMarr Woodley has 8 sacks in 4 career postseason games. LB James Farrior had 6 sacks this season, 2nd-most of career (6.5 in ’07) … Club had 3 players selected to 2011 Pro Bowl (LB Harrison, C Pouncey, S Troy Polamalu).