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 Fanhouse.com

Real rivalry in Pitt

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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   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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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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