Following the Blueprint

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Watching the Ravens' most bitter AFC North rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, playing in next week's Super Bowl would make any Baltimore fan bitter.

That is not necessarily the case for Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti.

He harbors respect for the team that beat his club in all three meetings this season.

"It is the kind of team that we want to be," Bisciotti said in a news conference Wednesday. "With three out of three contests ended in their favor, I would say that they're a notch above us now. I'm thrilled that arguably the best team, or certainly one of the top three teams, in this league is in our division. It's something for us to shoot for.

"Our sights are focused on beating Pittsburgh. If you start there and you climb that mountain, then we're probably going to be pretty good."

The Steelers, who will take on the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Feb. 1 in Tampa, Fla., have had the consistent success Baltimore would like to follow.

In six of the last eight years, Pittsburgh has made the playoffs. They've joined annual contenders like the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles.

Now that Charm City possesses a head coach for the foreseeable future in John Harbaugh and the makings of a franchise quarterback in Joe Flacco, Bisciotti thinks the Ravens are set to mimic that blueprint.

"It virtually is the only thing that you can look at and say that's the constant," Bisciotti said of the postseason regulars. "They've got a long-term coach and a long-term quarterback, and that's why they have a chance to get to the playoffs every year. So yeah, I think that's the position we're going to be in."

Success has been somewhat of a roller-coaster for the Ravens in the past.

In 2005, Baltimore went 6-10, only to bounce back to a 13-3 record the following season.

Last year, it was a disappointing 5-11 campaign that led to the beginning of Harbaugh's regime.

The rookie coach - with the help of his rookie quarterback - turned in a 13-6 campaign that rolled all the way to the AFC Championship.

"We want to be a player, we want to be an elite team, and hopefully, this is the beginning of that," explained Bisciotti, who was seated next to Harbaugh. "I don't think many teams experienced the last four years from six wins to 13, down to five and then up to 11. We've got to smooth that out and, hopefully, this guy is going to help us do that."

Bisciotti admitted that his expectations were actually lower than how the Ravens performed in 2008.

Heading into the season, Bisciotti told his new hire that six wins would make him happy, as long as he had coach and quarterback in place.

Harbaugh's response?

"I won't."

"John is always going to have higher expectations than me, and that's what I want in the leader of 53 men," Bisciotti said. "I want him to be the one that has the high expectations. I'd like mine to be a little more realistic. He knows, let's face it, I want trophies, and I said last year I needed to find a Hall of Fame coach. So if he gets me a couple of them, he's probably on his way to doing that."

Looking back on the stellar turnaround in only his first dip into the head coaching ranks, the forward-focused Harbaugh allowed himself a moment to reflect.

"You look back with some pride on what was accomplished," Harbaugh stated. "And [I have] some good feelings about our players and our coaches and what we've become together. We've become a football team.

"That was the goal last January when we sat up here and talked about what we are going to be about. Our guys have established an identity. We're a rough, tough, disciplined, hard-working, blue-collar kind of football team. That's what we wanted to be, and that's what we build on from here."

Of course, with Bisciotti's two key building blocks, Baltimore owns a foundation to maintain its success on an annual basis - even if the plan does go along with Steeler nation.

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