Playoff Game Preview: Ravens vs. Steelers


There's not much to say.

It's Ravens-Steelers in the playoffs. Short of a Super Bowl, it doesn't get bigger than that.

The Ravens have faced Pittsburgh in the postseason three times in franchise history, including twice during the Head Coach John Harbaugh-quarterback Joe Flacco era. Baltimore has lost all three games.

The Ravens aren't putting much stock into that stat, however. Flacco said the team hasn't talked about it.

"We've won there before, and I think that's probably more important," he said.

"All those facts are there, but they're all in the past," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs added. "We know we just have to play one football game. The other ones pretty much have their result, but this one doesn't. Come Saturday, it's an opportunity to do something special and do something we haven't ever done. I think we're up for the task, so we'll see."

Three Matchups To Watch

CB Lardarius Webb vs. WR Antonio BrownBrown led the NFL with 1,698 receiving yards this season. He's one of the toughest receivers in the league to cover and bring down because he's so quick and smooth in his routes. It's a tall task for Webb, but he's been playing his best football of the year now that he's finally feeling healthy. Brown posted a season-high 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens in Week 9.

OLB Elvis Dumervil vs. OT Marcus GilbertDumervil has gotten the better of Gilbert in their two earlier meetings this season, as Dumervil notched two sacks in the first meeting and one in the second. Gilbert has been a large part of Pittsburgh's improved offensive line play recently, however. Dumervil is due after not notching a sack in the Ravens' final two regular-season games.

LT James Hurst/Eugene Monroe vs. OLB James HarrisonHarrison was a game wrecker the last time these two teams met. He had two sacks and was in Flacco's face for much of the game. Now, if Monroe's ankle isn't healed enough, Harrison could square off against Hurst, the Ravens' undrafted rookie. Hurst had his best game of the season last week against Cleveland, but knows the playoffs in Pittsburgh will be a different beast.

Three Keys to the Game

*Protect The Football                                                                  *Turnovers seem to always doom the Ravens in Pittsburgh. Troy Polamalu returned an interception for a touchdown to beat the Ravens in the 2008 AFC championship. An interception and fumble blew Baltimore's halftime lead in the 2010 divisional round. Even this season, a fumble by Lorenzo Taliaferro with the Ravens leading by seven points changed the momentum of the game. With rain in the forecast, ball security will be especially critical. The Steelers defense is playing aggressively, and got three turnovers last week against Cincinnati.

Don't Start Ice ColdThe Ravens got out to a fast start the last time in Pittsburgh, scoring a touchdown on their second drive. But slow starts have been a plague the past four weeks. Never mind getting out the gates lightning fast (although that would be welcomed). The Ravens just can't come out bitterly cold because it would get Steelers fans even more jacked up and start Baltimore down a recently familiar road.

Limit Pittsburgh's Big PlaysQuarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw six touchdowns against the Ravens secondary in their Week 9 meeting. That obviously can't happen again for a victory. But some of those plays were caused because of missed tackling or simply just getting beat deep. Baltimore has to prevent the ball from going over its head, and must come up and make sure tackles. Make the Steelers earn it by marching down the field.

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