Coming into last night’s playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers had never lost in the postseason to a division team. They also happened to win the last four playoff games that took place at Heinz Field. There were many reasons to find the matchup a favorable one for the home team. Sometimes things don’t work out.
Dating back to the 1970s, the Steelers played a division rival nine times during the postseason as a bonus third match up that year. They came out victorious in all nine of those matchups, three of which came against the Ravens during this century.
This was the fourth time that the two teams would face off against each other in an elimination round match up, and the fourth time that said game took place at home, though it was the first time that that meeting came in the opening round of the playoffs.
After losing by a score of 30-17, the Steelers now hold a 9-1 record against division opponents in postseason play. Still a very good win percentage, but a bitter pill to swallow at the moment, especially considering the recent playoff drought.
There were a few factors stacked against them coming from the visiting team, however, one part of which goes back to the fact that the match up occurred during the Wildcard round.
Since John Harbaugh took over as the Ravens’ head coach, Baltimore has won at least one game every time they’ve made the playoffs. With the win last night, that streak will obviously continue on for at least another year.
In addition to that, despite the fact that the Ravens as an organization have only been around for about two decades, they have found remarkable success as road teams in the postseason. Last night was their 10th postseason victory on the road, tying the Green Bay Packers for the most in the league.
One thing is certainly clear now, and that’s that some of the mystique of the Steelers being unconquerable by their division rivals when it comes to postseason play has been eroded. That is not simply because they lost the game, but because they lost it handily, falling apart at the end.
Back during the 2010 season, when the Steelers beat the Ravens in the divisional round, Pittsburgh trailed 21-7 at the half, and came back to win that game. it just seemed like Pittsburgh, with the championship pedigree, had the number of any of their division rivals with far less postseason experience.
But recent history now tells us that the Steelers are sitting the back seat when it comes to playoff experience within the division, looking down only on the Cleveland Browns. Even the Cincinnati Bengals have made it to the dance four years running.
But, as hard as it is to admit, the Ravens are the team with the playoff pedigree now, and with the recent success, and rings, to show for it. Ben Roethlisberger may be a two-time winning quarterback, but most of his teammates from that era are gone, long gone, or soon to be gone.