Joe Flacco had heard all of the critics. He had never won at Heinz Field. He couldn't figure out the Steelers' legendary defense. His quarterback rating in three career games in Pittsburgh was 59.2.
The Ravens' visit to Heinz Field in October 2010 changed all that – emphatically. A typical, hard-hitting, passionate, defensive matchup between the two sides was ultimately won in the game's final seconds by Baltimore's third-year quarterback, putting to rest the question of if he could beat Pittsburgh in their backyard.
In 2008 and 2009, Baltimore made three trips to Pittsburgh, and they all ended in defeats. The regular-season matchup in 2008 was a three-point, overtime victory for the Steelers. Next came the 2008 AFC championship game that ended in a 27-10 loss with Flacco throwing three interceptions. The 2009 game was another three-point loss.
The 2010 season was a fresh slate. Many of the remaining Ravens that were a part of back-to-back playoff losses in '08 and '09 were determined for another shot at the Super Bowl. Led by veteran stalwarts Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the 2010 Ravens defense was once again one of the NFL's best. For the third-straight season, the defense finished third in the league in terms of points allowed. Reed led the NFL in interceptions, despite playing in only 10 games. Flacco led the offense, having his best season to date. He finished the year throwing for 3,622 yards to go along with 25 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Newly-acquired wide receiver Anquan Boldin quickly became Flacco's favorite target, producing team highs in receptions (64) and receiving yards (837).
The Steelers were coming off the 2009 season where they didn't qualify for the playoffs – a rarity in Pittsburgh. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for the season's first four games. Rashard Mendenhall paced the running game, posting 1,273 yards on the ground. The defense was stout, as usual, finishing as the league's second-ranked unit. Additionally, Pittsburgh's run defense was far and away the best in the league, limiting opponents to just 62.8 yards per game – nearly 28 yards per game better than the second-ranked team.
Both teams got off to good starts early on in the season to set up a Week 4 matchup between the 2-1 Ravens and 3-0 Steelers. As expected, the game was tight throughout, with neither team holding a lead of more than seven points. The defenses held their own ground throughout the day, neither team yielding more than 84 yards on the ground. But, when dust settled, it was Flacco who provided the heroics in Baltimore's 17-14 win.
Stat of the game
Pittsburgh's 126 net passing yards. Baltimore's defense suffocated Charlie Batch, who was subbing in for suspended Ben Roethlisberger, and didn't allow many throwing lanes. This was the second-lowest passing output the Ravens would allow all season.
Player of the game
Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. With the Steelers struggling to pass the ball, Pittsburgh tried to turn to the running game. But, Ngata stuffed the Steelers at the point of attack, notching 11 tackles (eight solo), one sack, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. Pittsburgh ran it 27 times for 84 yards.
Play of the game
After getting the ball back with one minute, eight second remaining and down 14-10, Flacco led the Ravens on 40-yard, game-winning drive that put a dagger in the Steelers. With 38 seconds left on the Steelers' 18-yard line, Flacco pumped once and then hit wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh on a deep post route for the go-ahead touchdown, sending the Ravens' sideline into bedlam. It was Houshmandzadeh's first touchdown catch as a Raven, and Flacco's first game-winning drive at Heinz Field. Ray Lewis intercepted Batch on the Steelers' next possession, sealing the win for Baltimore.
Quote of the week
Head Coach John Harbaugh on if this was a career-defining moment for Joe Flacco: "I think there are going to be a lot of defining moments for Joe, but this is going to be one of them. And this is going to be one that all the Ravens fans out there are going to remember for a long time."
What it meant The Ravens and Steelers would meet twice more before the 2010 season ended. The regular-season rematch in Baltimore would be another defensive struggle, but this one went to the Steelers, 13-10. After both teams finished the regular season 12-4, the two would meet again in the playoffs, and again in Pittsburgh. After going down 21-7 at halftime, the Steelers would battle back to win 31-24, ending the Ravens' playoff hopes for the second time in three years. Pittsburgh would eventually advance to the Super Bowl, falling to the Packers, 31-25.