Ravens fans left the big ATM otherwise known as M&T Bank Stadium very pleased Thanksgiving night after the Ravens knocked off the Steelers 22-20. A strong performance from quarterback Joe Flacco helped ensure the victory for Baltimore. Flacco, who was highly scrutinized this week for his comments regarding the wildcat offense, stood tall in the pocket and completed almost 70 percent of his passes, earning a 83.1 QBR. The Ravens’ offensive line neutralized the Steelers pass rush for most of the night which allowed Flacco to find the open man. For Ravens fans, it was a welcome sight not seeing Flacco have to run for his life on every pass attempt. The ground game was pedestrian once again, but that was to be expected against Pittsburgh’s strong defense. Bernard Pierce was the team’s leading rusher with just 35 yards.
On the Pittsburgh side of the ball, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was…Ben Roethlisberger. He once again frustrated Baltimore’s pass rushers by extending plays, all while keeping his eyes downfield and finding his open receivers. As all long time Ravens faithful know, no lead is safe when you are playing Pittsburgh. No one needs to be reminded of the 21-7 halftime lead that Baltimore squandered in Pittsburgh during the playoffs in January of 2011. Anyone with knowledge of this rivalry knew that no matter how many field goals Justin Tucker kicked that the game would come down to the last play. Like clockwork, the Steelers had an opportunity to tie the football game with less than two minutes remaining until their two point conversion attempt slipped through the hands of Emmanuel Sanders.
With the completion of Thursday’s game, another chapter of the regular season rivalry between Pittsburgh and Baltimore was written. For the eighth time in the last ten years the two teams split the season series 1-1. As always, the animosity between the two franchises was palpable on the field during the many post-whistle scuffles. That, along with the utter evenness between the two teams, makes this the best rivalry in professional football. When these two teams square off, the nation tunes in. Last night’s game garnered by far the nations #1 television rating for the day. In addition, at least one Pittsburgh versus Baltimore game occupies a primetime television slot every year. The hard hitting, down to the wire nature of this rivalry makes it one of the most popular not just in the two home cities, but across the country. These games have an old school feel that is hard to find in the modern era of professional football. It is good to see some violence in the game of football. As much as we hate to admit it, big hits and fights after the whistle are part of what elevated pro football to the Olympian heights that it knows today. These two teams bring all of that to the table twice per year. However, something tells me that the Ravens have not seen the last of the Steelers. Given the utter mediocrity in the AFC this year, there is no reason to believe that the Ravens and Steelers will not meet again. This time, however, their postseason lives will be on the line.