Gameday: Steelers-Ravens Wildcard Playoff 2014 Edition

There isn’t much I can say about tonight’s Steelers-Ravens matchup that hasn’t already been said. This is still the best rivalry in the NFL, even though faces have changed over the years. Even the coaches don’t like each other. With John Harbaugh’s penchant for douchiness and whining, and Mike Tomlin showing more emotion than ever on the sidelines lately, would anyone be shocked if these two got into a fistfight tonight?  I wouldn’t.

Remember these more cordial times?  Me neither.

Remember these more cordial times? Me neither.

The Steelers chances of winning this game have suffered a decent blow with Le’Veon Bell’s injury. Despite the fact that he probably wouldn’t have put up a ton of yards agains the Ravens’ run defense (especially with Haloti Ngata returning from suspension tonight), taking him out of the equation still makes it tougher for the Steelers. On the bright side, the field conditions tonight will be so poor that there’s a decent chance Bell would tear an ACL if he did play.

The Steelers beat the Ravens through the air this year, and they’ll have to do so again tonight.  Luckily, the Ravens have a pretty bad secondary, and even good defensive backs can’t cover Antonio Brown.  Add in Heath Miller, Martavis Bryant, and an improved Markus Wheaton, and the Ravens will have their hands full with the Steelers record-breaking offense (Fire Todd Haley!  Fire Todd Haley!).

The Steelers defense has played much better this last month, and here’s hoping they can keep it up tonight.  We’ve all seen over the years what happens to Joe Flacco when he’s under pressure.  He can be forced into some bad mistakes, and it’d be huge if this defense can rattle him.  It’d be nice to see the passing of the torch if Antwon Blake or Brice McCain could pick off Joe Flacco in a playoff game.

Win or lose, tonight could also be the last game in Heinz Field for Brett Kiesel (who’s on IR), Ike Taylor, James Harrison, and Troy Polamalu.  They have all meant so much to this franchise in the last decade (yes, even Ike, even though most of Steelers hates him despite him being a pretty damn good cover corner in his prime).  The number of big plays Troy has made against the Ravens alone could fill a highlight reel, as could the number of times Harrison has planted Flacco’s ass on the ground.  It’s hard not to get a little misty thinking about these guys no longer being Steelers.

Or Troy planting Flacco's ass on the ground.

Or Troy planting Flacco’s ass on the ground.

Despite both games this year being decided by 20 points, I think tonight’s game will be the type of close affair that has characterized this rivalry.  However, I see this being a much higher scoring game than is typical, just  because of the secondary woes each team has.  This will be a one-score decision, and it may very well come down to who gets the ball last.

Ridiculous Predictions:

  • Antonio Brown sets an NFL postseason record, becoming the first player to have 400 all-purpose yards.
  • Ben and Flacco are both sacked a ton and both make their classic fail face each time (ok, so that’s not really a ridiculous prediction).
  • It comes out after the game that Ben was playing with 4 broken bones in addition to the 3 that will be broken during the game.
  • Josh Harris stuns the world with a 50-yard touchdown run.
  • Dri Archer stuns the world and successfully blocks a guy.  Unfortunately, the guy is Heath Miller.
  • In a move reminiscent of Hayden Fox, Tomlin shocks the world when he sends Bell into the game late in the 4th quarter for the game-winning score.  Turns out he was never really hurt!  It was all an elaborate ruse!  (Hey, a girl can dream!)

    A fake injury that required a wheelchair?  Man, Coach Fox pulled out all the stops,

    A fake injury that required a wheelchair? Man, Coach Fox pulled out all the stops.

No matter what happens tonight, I’m sure this will be another classic chapter in a rivalry that’s featured bleeding players, broken bones, alleged bounties, terse handshakes, and the Ravens whining about playing in primetime in Pittsburgh.  Tonight let’s remind them why they hate playing at night in Heinz Field.  Go Steelers.

Ray-Rice-TT-Charles-LeClaire-USA-Today-Sports

Never forget.

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