ShareThis Page

Ravens provide Steelers with winning blueprint

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 7:52 p.m.
Baltimore's Ray Rice scores past the Steelers' Cortez Allen and Brett Keisel during the third quarter Sunday Dec. 2, 2012 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Baltimore's Ray Rice scores past the Steelers' Cortez Allen and Brett Keisel during the third quarter Sunday Dec. 2, 2012 at M&T Bank Stadium. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

NEW ORLEANS — Twice in four seasons, the Baltimore Ravens' road to the Super Bowl ended abruptly with a January loss in Pittsburgh. This season, they made it to the NFL title game despite losing to the Steelers at home in December.

With a combined three Super Bowl appearances between them since 2008, the Ravens and Steelers couldn't have played two closer games this season. Each won by three points on the other team's home field in a rivalry that players from both teams consider to be the NFL's most competitive, closely contested and punishing.

Most punitive, too.

“When you play the Steelers, it's like a playoff game,” tackle Bryant McKinnie said Wednesday.

Given how tight those games were, why were the rivals' seasons so contrasting? The Ravens are a victory away from winning the Lombardi Trophy despite losing four of five late in the season. The Steelers (8-8) didn't even make it into the tournament.

“You have years like that, but (if you're the Steelers), you've got to bounce back,” said Ravens backup quarterback Dennis Dixon, who spent four seasons in Pittsburgh.

The Ravens' bounce-back came after franchise figurehead Ray Lewis returned from a 10-game injury layoff, a shakeup stabilized the offensive line and Joe Flacco returned to playing like the efficient quarterback who has won eight playoff games in five seasons.

The Steelers' bounce-back? They're still awaiting it.

“We were hungry, and we worked more,” said wide receiver Jacoby Jones, whose punt return touchdown proved the difference in the Ravens' 13-10 win at Pittsburgh. “I'm not saying they weren't hungry or worked, but we got to the point where it was determination. We were determined.”

Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda believes Pittsburgh's season unraveled because of a common culprit — injuries, especially those to Ben Roethlisberger — and an atypical one for the Steelers, turnovers and mistakes.

“Down the end there, we did a good job of taking care of the ball,” Yanda said. “The Steelers had a couple of games where they had a lot of turnovers and the one game they had eight turnovers. It's just tough to win games if you don't take care of the football. That's something that we take pride in every day, that we take care of the football.”

During the second half of the season, the Steelers had 22 turnovers — tied for the second most in the league — while the Ravens had eight.

Yanda has another theory: All those recent playoff games against the Patriots and Steelers helped harden these Ravens for a difficult run in which they have beaten each of the two top AFC seeds, No. 1 Denver and No. 2 New England, on the road. The Ravens have played the Patriots or Pittsburgh in the playoffs every season since 2008.

“We've played in the playoffs a bunch and played Pittsburgh and New England a lot, and we're in tight ballgames a bunch,” Yanda said. “When you get two good teams and you don't turn the ball over a bunch, it's going to be a tight game that comes down to a play here and there. And that tests you.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.