Top 5 Baltimore Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers Grudge Matches
Top Five Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens Grudge Matches
For over a decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens represented the NFL's best rivalry, and arguably the fiercest in all the of American sports. As names like Ward, Lewis, Reed, Bettis and Harrison have moved on, it seemed like the enmity had lost its luster, especially as these two teams struggled for the first halves of their respective seasons.
Now? It's back on, and in a big way. The records (both stand at 5-6) may not have the sexiness of seasons past, but this is as big as a Week 13 game can be. Both proud franchises are trying to dig their way out of their early-season messes and return to the playoffs for another shot at Super Bowl glory. They are currently tied for the sixth and final Wild Card spot, and the winner will likely ride a momentum-shifting wave all the way into January, while the other will be buried in the obscurity of the also-rans.
After it seemed sure that either Ben Roethlisberger or Todd Haley would be out at the end of the season, it seems like Pittsburgh's "Odd Couple" might have a little magic yet, as they have averaged 29 points per game in the three-game winning streak, while the defense is fresh off of its best game of the season.
The Ravens too, can still depend on their defense, while the offense continues to find an identity, stuck between a Super Bowl MVP quarterback and a former Pro Bowl halfback. As Joe Flacco and Ray Rice work out the kinks, the Ravens are winners of two out of three, and will try to put a halt to the Steelers' season-saving win streak.
It's the Steelers. It's the Ravens. It's football. It's Thanksgiving. The only thing you could be more thankful for is if this game proves thrilling enough to bump one of the following from the pantheon of the five greatest Steelers-Ravens games in the era.
Alexander Diegel is a columnist for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @ItsaDiegel, "like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on google.
Honorable Mention: Dec. 12, 2013: The Charlie Batch Game
OK, I have to admit, picking just five of these games was extremely difficult. Judging by the minimal impact this one had on the final results for each team, this one got bumped, but its in-the-moment magnitude was worthy of recognition.
The tone was set for a big Ravens' win, as both Ben Roethlisberger and backup Byron Leftwich were held out due to injury. The Steelers had dropped two in a row, including a loss to the Ravens just two weeks earlier, and Baltimore was red-hot, winners of four straight.
But before Ravens fans could celebrate the victory, Old Man Charlie Batch had something to say about it. In what proved to be the last appearance of his 15-year career, Batch turned back the clock to 2001, the last time he was a regular starter in the NFL, and threw for 276 yards with a touchdown in a surprising victory against the perennially stout Ravens' D.
If this game had had more of a lasting effect on the Steelers' season, it would have definitely garnered a ranking on the list, but Big Ben could not continue his hot start to the season, and was largely ineffective after his return to the starting lineup as the Steelers fell out of playoff contention, and the Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl.
Still, for a night, Charlie Batch shocked the world. And just for good measure, it spawned this hilarious Youtube webisode of "Pittsburgh Dad."
5) November 29, 2009: The Dennis Dixon Game
That makes two games with big impacts from third-string quarterbacks, proving that this rivalry simply goes beyond star players. With Roethlisberger and Batch out, Dennis Dixon, better known for his speed than his arm, filled in admirably in a game many fans would have marked as a sure victory for the Ravens.
Dixon managed the game to the tune of two touchdowns and played nearly mistake-free football, with an interception as the lone blemish on the first start of his career. The second-year Oregon product marched the Steelers down the field for the go-ahead field goal, but Baltimore responded with a score of their own with just 1:51 seconds left to send the game to overtime, which the Ravens won, 20-17, via a Billy Cundiff field goal.
This would prove to be Flacco's first victory against the Steelers as he withstood five sacks to throw for 289 yards and no interceptions. Ray Rice had a one of his best games against the Pittsburgh D, with 155 total yards, while Mark Clayton caught seven balls for 129 yards.
4) December 5, 2010: The Got Your Nose Game
Have you forgotten about this game? I bet Ben Roethlisberger hasn't. In fact, I'd be willing to bet he thinks about it every morning when he looks in the mirror and counts the turns in his crooked nose, courtesy of a big Haloti Ngata forearm.
The giant nose tackle smashed Roethlisberger's nose every which way in the Steelers' opening drive, but the big QB would not come out of the game, and threw for 253 yards in Pittsburgh's 13-10 victory. Set up by Troy Polamalu's clutch strip-sack of Joe Flacco, Roethlisberger would finish the drive by firing a strike to the previously unheard of Isaac Redman.
Redman would go on to make a name for himself in Pittsburgh as a dependable option to fall forward for a first down, but at the time, he was an undrafted 250-pound bowling ball from Division-II Bowie State. Needless to say, he was pretty far down the list of prospective players to catch a game-winning touchdown in this star-studded rivalry.
3) January 28, 2009: The AFC Championship Game
The final score, 23-14, does not do this game justice, as the hard-hitting affair was in question until the final 4:24 seconds in the fourth quarter.
The Steelers jumped out to an early 13-0 lead, but Ray Lewis and his proud defensive mates would not be cast aside so quickly, as they gave up only three more points for the rest of the game, while Willis McGahee punched in two touchdowns to close the game to 16-14. With the Ravens driving, Polamalu made one of his patented instinctual breaks on the ball, jumped a Joe Flacco pass and took it to the house to seal the game in Pittsburgh's favor.
As the Ravens tried in vain to mount a comeback in the final four minutes, McGahee was the recipient of a brutal hit from Ryan Clark that simultaneously caused the game-ending fumble, embodied the intensity of this rivalry, and would be made a penalty and finable offense just a season later.
2) November 6, 2011: The Torrey Smith Game
The Ravens embarrassed the Steelers in the 2011 season opener, and the common thought was that Pittsburgh would surely respond with a statement win of their own at Heinz Field in the rematch. With 4:59 to go, it was all coming to plan, with the Steelers ahead by four and their top-ranked defense back on the field to close out Flacco and the Ravens, as they had done so many times before.
However, Baltimore, tired of being the little brother of the AFC North, still had some punch in them. Flacco dinked and dunked the Ravens to Pittsburgh's 26-yard line, needing a touchdown to win the game. Shockingly, Flacco threaded a needle to a diving Torrey Smith for the game-winning score with eight seconds left on the clock, leaving the Steelers' secondary shaking their heads, and the fans in hushed silence as their team dropped the game 23-20.
This would prove to be a career-changing catch for Smith, who thus far was seen as a dropper, and had just let a game-winner slip through his fingertips. Smith has since improved with every passing season, and is now the Ravens' unquestioned primary receiver.
1) January 15, 2011: The Playoff Comeback Game
To this point in the rivalry, the Steelers had been the Ravens' "Daddies," to borrow a term from the contention between baseball's two most hated teams. Pittsburgh was just a season removed from a 3-0 sweep and a trip to the Super Bowl at Baltimore's expense, and in 2010 had captured the AFC North crown yet again. Finally, it seemed, their reign of terror would come to an end, as Baltimore jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the all-important playoff rubber match.
However, Roethlisberger and the fierce Steelers' D were not ready to surrender their hold on the rivalry just yet. Big Ben stood up to six Ravens sacks and countless other crunching hits to throw for two scores, as he tossed clutch strike after clutch strike. While Ben was busy putting points on the board, the defense was keeping Baltimore off of it. After allowing 21 points in the first 25 minutes, the Steelers would yield only three more for the final 35, as they forced Baltimore into three crucial turnovers.
Roethlisberger would go on to lead the Steelers to their third AFC Championship, where his comeback magic would fall just short in the Super Bowl. In this one, however, they gave the fans a game to be remembered, and one that will live on in Ravens-Steelers long after Roethlisberger, Flacco and the rest join Ray Lewis and Hines Ward in retirement.