One of the NFL’s greatest rivalries of the last couple decades, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are known for bringing out the best in each other, regardless of either team’s standing entering each contest. Those games always end up being highly physical affairs, full of big plays that are added to the highlight reel for the next meeting in the rivalry, and more often than not, come down to one possession. Over 12 meetings the past six seasons, nine of the games have been decided by one score or less.
Sunday’s contest fit all of that, and added another worthy chapter to the series history. The two rivals brought out some excellent play from each other, maybe not in the entirety of the game but definitely throughout the second half and fourth quarter in particular. After the latest entry, a 20-19 victory for the Steelers that came down to the game’s final drive, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin had a chance to put the team’s performance in context with the previous entries of the series, many of which he has been in charge of as the team’s coach.
“Just the competitiveness, you know? Whether we like it or not, I’m talking about us and the Ravens man, we’re tied together. There’s been some significant games. It’s about the men that have played in these games, the standard that they hold the current players to. Guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and others, guys on this seed like Alan Faneca, Troy Polamalu, those gold-jacket types that I’ve had an opportunity to watch for 15 years, that really kind of set a standard in the series that we all have to play to and uphold, and we’re appreciative of that. Hopefully, we made those Steeler alumni proud with our efforts tonight,” Tomlin said, in a press conference shared by the team.
Every player mentioned by name by Tomlin, Lewis and Reed of the Ravens, Faneca and Polamlau of the Steelers, are NFL Hall of Famers, and authors of big moments against the opposing team in the last two decades of the series.
Some newly-minted big moments came in Sunday’s meeting, the 55th between the franchises. There were a pair of touchdowns from Ben Roethlisberger to Diontae Johnson that helped the Steelers take the lead late. There was the immediate answer from the Ravens and Lamar Jackson, who drove down and scored with 12 seconds left, and then chose to put the entire game on the line with a two-point attempt.
And there was that attempt itself, a lock to appear on recap videos for the rivalry for years to come. The pressure all game, led by T.J. Watt and former Raven Chris Wormley, created proud moments for the Steelers, and it was Watt’s pressure on that two-point try that forced an errant throw from Jackson, that Baltimore tight end Mark Andrews could not secure, falling inches away and giving Pittsburgh the win.
The entire contest might not have been pretty, looking to a slow start offensively in the first half from both teams. But the second half was exactly what everyone expected from Steelers/Ravens football, the fourth quarter especially.
It also served as a major boost for the Steelers, and puts Tomlin’s initial answer in a little more perspective. Following a pair of losses the prior two weeks, each of which saw Pittsburgh give up 41 points, the Steelers received an abundance of criticism during the week leading up to Baltimore, much of it levied by former Steelers themselves.
The season isn’t over yet, but Sunday’s win saw the Steelers respond to some of that criticism, and show they can rise up and keep their postseason hopes alive, as well as stand up to one of their biggest rivals and answer physicality with physicality. It was a major turning point in the middle of the year for the team, and one of the biggest ones thus far as a result. As well as yet another must-see entry to the history of Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore.