Ravens - Steelers Under the Lights in '09

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Following their 11-5 regular season and a run to the AFC Championship in 2008, the Ravens will be showcased on three prime-time features this year.

Baltimore travels to Cleveland to take on the Browns for Monday Night Football Nov. 16, and later head to historic Lambeau Field to meet the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 7 for another Monday nighter.

But the one game that will have smash-mouth football fans salivating is a Sunday, Nov. 29 contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers scheduled for 8:20 p.m.

The Ravens participated in a classic battle when they played the Steelers to an overtime thriller last year on Monday Night Football at Heinz Field.

Unfortunately, Baltimore lost that late-September matchup 23-20.

The next time there was a prime-time battle between these two heavyweights, it was again in Pittsburgh - and again, the Ravens lost 23-14.

This season, the Steelers will have to do it on Baltimore's home turf.

The defending Super Bowl champions come to M&T Bank Stadium for NBC's Sunday night showcase in what should be yet another physical clash. It will mark the first time Pittsburgh has played in Charm City for a thriller under the lights since 2003.

"We like the schedule, especially for our fans," Ravens president Dick Cass said. "Seven of our eight regular season home games are scheduled for 1 p.m. Our bye (Oct. 25) comes at a good time in the season.

"And, we know the fans will be excited to have the Steelers come here for a prime-time game."

But, there are definitely other challenges the Ravens must overcome next year.

While Baltimore opens at home on Sept. 13, against the Kansas City Chiefs, the first three road games are against some of the NFL's elite clubs.

On Sept. 20, the Ravens travel across the country for a meeting with the San Diego Chargers. Two weeks later (Oct. 4) is an away contest against the New England Patriots. Another two weeks after that (Oct. 18), the Minnesota Vikings will host the purple and black.

Both the Chargers and the Vikings made the playoffs last year, and New England, only two years removed from a Super Bowl berth, welcomes back star quarterback Tom Brady from a season-ending knee injury.

From the home front, there is a five-week stretch where the Ravens spend a significant amount of time at M&T Bank Stadium. Sandwiched around the Packers contest on Dec. 7, Baltimore hosts the Indianapolis Colts (Nov. 22), the Steelers (Nov. 29), the Detroit Lions (Dec. 13) and the Chicago Bears (Dec. 20).

The Ravens own the second-best home record in the NFL since 2000. Their 52-20 record in Baltimore in that nine-year span is one game behind the 53-19 marks set by both New England and Indianapolis.

"We knew who we were going to play, and the schedule now gives us dates we can target," head coach John Harbaugh said. "Our focus since the end of last season is to keep finding ways to get better. That's what we're doing now.

"We'll be ready when the regular season starts against the Chiefs, and we'll keep working so that we'll be even better when December comes."

The only other West Coast excursion comes in the season finale at the Raiders' Oakland Coliseum at 1:15 p.m.

"Having those two long trips split to the beginning and end of the season is helpful," Cass said.

The Ravens' bye will be the weekend of Oct. 25, a drastic improvement over last year's situation that saw Hurricane Ike's damage to the city of Houston reschedule Baltimore's bye to Week 2. Flexible scheduling begins in Week 11 on Sunday, Nov. 22, a practice that ensures the best matchups can be shifted into prime time.

Below are some notes about the Ravens' 2009 opponents:

AFC North

Pittsburgh Steelers
2008 Record:12-4, Super Bowl Champions
Regular Season Series:Steelers lead 16-10
Last meeting:1/18/09 - Steelers 23-14 in Pittsburgh (AFC Championship)
Notable:The Ravens and the Steelers played each other three times last year, with Baltimore dropping each contest.

Cincinnati Bengals
2008 Record:4-11-1
Regular Season Series:Ravens lead 15-11
Last meeting:11/30/08 - Ravens 34-3 in Cincinnati
Notable:The Bengals' potent passing attack was built with the help of Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson, who tutored Cincinnati's wideouts from 2004-06.

Cleveland Browns
2008 Record:4-12
Regular Season Series:Ravens lead 13-7
Last meeting:11/02/08 - Ravens 37-27 in Cleveland
Notable:Former Ravens director of pro personnel George Kokinis now helms the Browns' personnel decisions at general manager.

Home

Kansas City
2008 Record:2-14
Regular Season Series:Chiefs lead 3-1
Last meeting:12/10/06 - Ravens 20-10 in Kansas City
Notable:Kansas City has won all three times it has played at M&T Bank Stadium.

Denver Broncos
2008 Record:8-8
Regular Season Series:Tied 3-3
Last meeting:10/09/08 - Broncos 13-3 in Denver
Notable:New Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels, 32, is the NFL's youngest to hold the position.

Indianapolis Colts
2008 Record:12-4, AFC Wild Card
Regular Season Series:Colts lead 6-2
Last meeting:10/12/08 - Colts 31-3 in Indianapolis
Notable:This year marks the sixth consecutive season the Colts and Ravens have met.

Detroit Lions
2008 Record:0-16
Regular Season Series:Tied 1-1
Last meeting:10/09/05 - Lions 35-17 in Detroit
Notable:Lions head coach Jim Schwartz was a fledgling defensive assistant for the Ravens from 1996-98. He is also a Baltimore native.
Chicago Bears
2008 Record:9-7
Regular Season Series:Bears lead 2-1
Last meeting:10/23/05 - Bears 10-6 in Chicago
Notable:The Bears completely changed the face of their franchise by recently trading for Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler.

Away

San Diego Chargers
2008 Record:8-8, AFC West Champions
Regular Season Series:Tied 3-3
Last meeting:11/25/08 - Chargers 32-14 in San Diego
Notable:San Diego slipped into the 2008 playoffs at 8-8 by owning the AFC West division tiebreaker over the 8-8 Broncos.

New England Patriots
2008 Record:11-5
Regular Season Series:Patriots lead 4-0
Last meeting:`12/03/07 - Patriots 27-24 in Baltimore
Notable:The last time the Ravens met the Patriots, Baltimore came the closest of any other team to derail New England's perfect 16-0 season before a last-minute Brady touchdown pass with :44 left sealed Baltimore's loss.

Minnesota Vikings
2008 Record:10-6, NFC North Champions
Regular Season Series:Ravens lead 2-1
Last meeting:12/25/05 - Ravens 30-23 in Baltimore
Notable:Baltimore has never played in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome during the regular season.

Green Bay Packers
2008 Record:6-10
Regular Season Series:Packers lead 2-1
Last meeting:12/19/05 - Ravens 48-3 in Baltimore
Notable:The Ravens avenged two consecutive losses at Lambeau Field when they destroyed the Packers 48-3 on Monday Night Football in Baltimore.

Oakland Raiders
2008 Record:5-11
Regular Season Series:Ravens lead 3-1
Last meeting:10/26/08 - Ravens 29-10 in Baltimore
Notable:When the Ravens defeated Oakland last year in Week 7, Baltimore piled up what was then a season-high 375 yards on offense.

The Ravens have sold out every game in their 13 year history and the best means for fans to guarantee themselves tickets is by purchasing Permanent Seat Licenses (PSL) and season tickets. The Ravens PSL Marketplace provides a safe and easy environment for PSL and season ticket purchases. A limited number of *single game ticketswill be available for sale beginning Friday, July 17. Tickets for the Redskins and Jets are expected to have the best availability.
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Got any thoughts on the Ravens' 2009 schedule? Let us know!

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