The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for

Real rivalry in Pitt


After two games this season, the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers are tied at 27-all.

Whoever finishes ahead after three goes to the AFC title game.

I suppose that's why Baltimore at Pittsburgh is by far my favorite game of the season -- because it's football as it should be. Close, hard-hitting, low-scoring, a game where every first down will mean something, even if it's just 10 yards of field position. In other words, a game where a field goal is an important score, not "failure'' for a team that can't get into the end zone in a contest that ends 41-36. Example: the over-under on the game is 36½ points, or just a half-point more than New Orleans scored last week in its loss to Seattle.

This one's almost guaranteed to come down to the end.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore traded three-point wins this year, the visitor winning each time, the Steelers' 13-10 win the result of Troy Polamalu's strip sack of Joe Flacco that set up the Steelers' touchdown.

Last year there were two more three-point games, both won by the Steelers -- a 23-20 "shootout'' at home and a 20-17 win in Baltimore. In 2008, Pittsburgh won 23-20 and 13-9 before the only "blowout'' of the last three years, a 23-14 win in the AFC championship game.

Beyond that, Baltimore-Pittsburgh is a real rivalry. Yes, so are the Jets and the Patriots, whose game in Foxborough should be closer than the 45-3 blowout by New England back on Dec. 6. But that's an inflated rivalry -- pumped up by Rex Ryan's bluster and Bill Belichick's monosyllabic muttering. Until the Jets do something -- even win an AFC East title -- that's all it will be.

In fact, I think the weekend's second best game will be Green Bay at Atlanta -- two evenly matched teams who played a game decided by a late field goal during the regular season. But there's no division rivalry here and little history -- Atlanta has spent most of its 40-plus year history losing.

The other thing about Steelers-Ravens is that despite the defenses, there are some offensive stars. Even some beyond the obvious: Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and Ray Rice. I look at Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace as the best young deep receiver in the NFL -- he averaged 21 yards per catch, second to Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson at 22.5 and his 10 TDs were four more than Jackson.

Overall, the only problem I see with this game is that it will be the first one played -- at 4:30 on Saturday.

When it's finished, the other three might be anticlimactic.

By Dave Goldberg  |  January 11, 2011; 2:40 PM ET  | Category:  AFC , Baltimore Ravens , Dave Goldberg , NFL , Pittsburgh Steelers , Playoffs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I've lived in Pittsburgh and I've lived in Baltimore. I've seen both teams and fans at their best and at their worst. Having seen that, I can only say, "GO RAVENS! Beat the snot out of those $@*&^! Steelers."

Posted by: huguenotklj | January 13, 2011 11:04 AM

The Baltimore Rats can beat the Steelers. But no way can they beat Big Ben. Thugs go home crying in their crabcakes again...

Posted by: tsamm | January 13, 2011 11:56 AM

Yes! Smack-talking on the WaPo! Love it! Go 'lers!

I predict 'lers by 6--maybe even on the first drive in OT.

Posted by: the_proph | January 13, 2011 2:06 PM

Great article and I could not agree more. However, Pitt did not win both meetings last year. Baltimore won 20-17 in OT, albeit against a Dennis Dixon led Steelers squad.

Posted by: Scritch03 | January 14, 2011 12:19 PM

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