Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, 3:30 PM CBS
Last weekend the Ravens obliterated the Kansas City Chiefs, 30-7. Baltimore’s defense was able to force 5 turnovers and held Chiefs quarterback to 70 yards passing. They may not have the same success against Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The two teams split the season series 1-1 with each team winning in their opponent’s home stadium by a combined score of 27-27. Over the last 17 meetings the Steelers hold a one game advantage.
The last playoff meeting between these two teams was the 2008 AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh. In a hard-hitting game, Steelers won 23-14 and secured their victory with a 40-yard pick six by safety Troy Polamalu. In the last meeting in Baltimore in Week 13, Polamalu made a huge sack-forced fumble of quarterback Joe Flacco that set up the Steelers’ game winning score.
The Ravens have an All-Pro safety that matches in talent and skill of Polamalu: Ed Reed. As stated prior to their matchup against Kansas City, Ed Reed had 8 interceptions despite missing 6 games due to a hip injury.
This is a tough game to call because the talent levels on both sides of the field are mirror images of each other. The Ravens have an intense linebacker corps led by future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis; the Steelers have James Harrison. Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall and Ravens running back Ray Rice each rushed for over 1,200 yards this season. Derrick Mason and Hines Ward are tough wide receivers who are not afraid to go over the middle, while both teams have receivers who have the ability to go deep in Anquan Boldin and Mike Wallace.
I think the Ravens will win this one because they have proven that they can win on the road in the playoffs. Since 2008, the Ravens are 4-2. Joe Flacco became the first quarterback to win a post-season game on the road in each of his first three seasons. The Ravens proved that road warrior mentality by winning at Pittsburgh in Week 4 of this season.
This will be a hard fought game. Just like in the two regular season games, it will come down to a huge play in the final five minutes of the game.
Defense will be the name of this game. Points will be at a premium.
THE PICK: Ravens 16, Steelers 13