Mike Tomlin entered the 2014 season with much to prove. After two straight 8-8 seasons, his team needed success and rebounded with an 11-5 record and an AFC North Division Title. Unfortunately, the season ended with a thud on the home turf to Baltimore who has suddenly become “Kryptonite” to Tomlin and his squad.
That AFC North title may have saved Tomlin from some serious pressure because the fans were starting to become even more impatient than usual. That said, the fans are growing a bit restless when it comes to Tomlin’s record against the rival Ravens as 2015 approaches.
Super Bowl titles aside, losing to the Ravens still does not sit well with any Steelers’ fan and after the home playoff loss last season, it’s time to put Mike Tomlin’s record against them under the microscope.
The Current Record
Since Tomlin became the Head Coach of the Steelers in 2007, his record against the Ravens is 10-9 which includes a playoff record of 2-1 with all three of those games at Heinz Field. Against John Harbaugh, who became the Ravens’ coach a year later, Tomlin stands at 9-8 overall.
Tomlin’s Home/Away record is fairly indicative of a rivalry of this magnitude. He’s 7-4 at home and is 3-5 on the road. Those aren’t unusual numbers at all.
Reversal of Fortunes
Things took a strange turn in 2011 however and Tomlin has yet to recover. Prior to the AFC Divisional Playoff Game that season where the Steelers beat the Ravens to advance to AFC Championship, Tomlin had beaten the Ravens six of nine times.
Since that game, Tomlin has seen his fortunes do a complete 180. His Steelers have gone 3-6 against Harbaugh’s Ravens since the 2011 AFC Playoff Game.
The easy answer is players changed as they always do. Some get older, some get hurt more often and some just don’t produce. You could easily argue that the Steelers aged just a little faster than Baltimore did and therefore the youger-veteran experience of the Ravens proved too much for the old-veteran experience of Pittsburgh.
To put it another way though, look at the numbers.
In the nine games prior to that AFC Playoff Game, the Ravens averaged 16 points per game in those contests while the Steelers averaged just over 20 points per game. Seven of the nine games were decided by six points or less with four of them coming down to a difference of a field goal.
The two outliers were a 38-7 Steelers win and the 23-14 AFC Title Game win in 2009.
In the nine games following the 2011 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, things flip-flopped dramatically. The Ravens scored a full touchdown more per game as they’ve averaged 23 points per game. The Steelers meanwhile dropped only about two and a half points per game going from 20.5 to 18 per contest.
Reasons for the Reversal
It all starts with players. As much as we Steelers’ fans want to rip on Joe Flacco, the fact of the matter is that he has played better in recent years against Pittsburgh. It’s a bitter pill but one we must swallow.
I don’t think you’ll get much argument that the Ravens’ offensive and defensive lines have been better too over the last nine games. The sacks and turnovers, which both favor Baltimore, indicate more dominate interior line play.
Both teams also had to deal with the loss or deterioration of once great players too and that’s certainly an impact. I would say the turnover has been greater for Pittsburgh but not by a wide margin.
There are of course many other factors ranging from better special teams play by the Ravens as well as big time performances from guys we wouldn’t always expect to see that from. What matters in the end to us of course is that Mike Tomlin and the Steelers get back to beating the Ravens a little more often.
Being unable to consistently beat your rival doesn’t sit well with the fans and it doesn’t bode well for your future either. Superman knows he must avoid Kryptonite at all costs but for Mike Tomlin? He needs to square up and face it head-on.