The Steelers and Ravens will meet for the 24th time in the Mike Tomlin era. Three of those meetings occurred in the playoffs and the two Steelers victories were part of their AFC Championship runs. The Ravens have won more games against the Steelers over that span than any other team. Despite their plethora of injuries, the Ravens still have a very capable defense. John Harbaugh has out-coached Mike Tomlin over many of their matchups and will have his team hyped and ready. The Steelers will need to match the intensity the Ravens will bring to the field on Sunday. If they come out with another lackadaisical approach like they did in Chicago the Ravens will physically dominate the game. It is often said you can “throw the numbers out the window” when it comes to rivalry games, but there are still some consistent trends worth noting.
Before Antonio Brown’s “Immaculate Extension” last Christmas, the Steelers had lost 4 in a row to the Ravens and 6 of the last 7. On the whole, the Steelers are 11-12 against the Ravens under Mike Tomlin. If you take away the Steelers 2-1 mark against Baltimore in the postseason, the Steelers are just 9-11 against Baltimore in the regular season but only 3-7 in Baltimore. Over the last two seasons, all four meetings between the Steelers and Ravens have been one-possession games. These are our rivals. There is plenty of hate to go around.
Against the Spread
The Steelers are favored by 2.5 points on the road against the Ravens. This will be the 19th time under Mike Tomlin the Steelers enter a road contest favored by less than a field goal. The Steelers are 11-7 in the previous 18 games and have covered the spread in 9 of their 11 wins. This will only be the third time under Mike Tomlin that the Steelers are favored in Baltimore and they have lost the prior three games. The Steelers are just 1-4 Against the Spread in their last 5 games after a loss while the Ravens have won 6 games in a row at home.
Epic Wins In Baltimore
As mentioned in the first section, the Steelers are only 3-7 in Baltimore under Mike Tomlin. That being said, those three wins have all been epic victories. In 2008, there was the Santonio Holmes Goal Line Catch that won us the division title.
In 2010, Isaac Redman spun his way through the entire Ravens defense to steal a victory and seal another division title.
Finally, the last time the Steelers tasted victory in Baltimore was 2012. That year, Ben Roethlisberger was injured and Charlie Batch led the Steelers to an emotional victory.
The Middle of the Field
As discussed this week on the Steel City Blitz podcast, the Ravens defensive strategy against the Steelers has always been to play press man on the outside with two safeties high to take away the deep throws. In the past, the Steelers have been able to exploit this by staying patient with the running game and utilizing short passes over the middle. Unfortunately, this takes away the two things the Steelers like to do the most on offense – throw deep and throw outside the numbers. This game is an opportunity for slot receivers and tight ends to thrive. Last year, Eli Rogers only had 2 games where he surpassed 75 yards and both of them were against Baltimore. Rogers had 103 yards and 83 yards dominating the middle of the field against the Ravens last year. Le’Veon Bell ran for 122 yards on 20 carries in the second meeting with Baltimore last year. Schematically these are two matchups the Steelers need to exploit – running the ball and throwing over the middle. The Steelers have a variety of receivers in Rogers, Vance McDonald, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, along with Le’Veon Bell out of the backfield, that are capable of attacking the middle of the Ravens defense. If the Steelers are going to have success moving the ball, they need to run the ball and work short passes between the numbers.
The 20 point threshold is the magic number for the Steelers offense. This season the Steelers are 2-0 when scoring 20+ points and 0-1 when they do not. Last season they were 12-1 when scoring at least 20 and 2-4 when they did not surpass 20 points. Dating back to 2014 (the last 3+ seasons), the Steelers are 33-6 when they score at least 20 points and 4-14 when they do not. A similar pattern is true against the Ravens. Under Mike Tomlin the Steelers have not lost a game to the Ravens when scoring 23 points or more. The Steelers are 0-4 when scoring 20 or 21 points and 3-8 when held below 20. Interestingly, five times during the Mike Tomlin Era the Steelers and Ravens have played to a 23-20 result and once more to a 22-20 finish. The Steelers are 3-2 in 23-20 games and lost the 22-20 game. It is worth noting that only 4 times in the last 10 years has the winning team in a Steelers-Ravens tilt scored fewer than 20 points.