When thinking about the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens football teams, most think of a hard nose, physical rivalry between two teams that do not like each other. Besides the physical state of play, there is not much that you could find that both teams have in common. That is, until he Ravens set off on their most current playoff run that looks quite similar to a playoff run that the Steelers embarked on earlier this century.
As most already know, before the playoffs started this season the Ravens leader on and off the field, Ray Lewis, announced that this will be his final ride as a player in the National Football League. This mirrors what former Steeler Jerome Bettis did before the start of the 2005 playoffs when he announced that he would be taking part in the final run of his career ultimately hoping he would end up celebrating a Super Bowl victory in his hometown of Detroit. But the similarities between these playoff runs go much farther than the announcements of both of these teams’ leaders at that time.
In 2005, the Steelers were the six seed in the playoffs and took on the up and coming Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The Bengals were the surprise AFC North division champions and were taking on a veteran and already proven Steelers squad. The 2012 Ravens experienced the same situation in their Wild Card Round as they were the four seed taking on the surprising Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round. Both the Bengals and the Colts were led by young quarterbacks in Carson Palmer and Andrew Luck, although, Palmer was injured in the first quarter with the infamous Kimo Von Oelhoffon play where he rolled up on Palmer after being knocked to the ground.
In 2005, Bettis was the Steelers’ leading rusher with 52 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Like Bettis, Lewis was leading his team on his side of the ball against the Colts with 13 tackles. In 2005, the Steelers took care of the Bengals by the score of 31-17, a 14-point decision. The Ravens also took care of the younger Colts squad by the score of 24-9, a 15-point decision.
The similarities become even more evident in the divisional round matchups that both teams took part in. In both cases the teams had to go up against Peyton Manning led teams which were both the No. 1 seed in their respective years. Both Bettis and Lewis led the way for their teams once again. Bettis was the leading rusher with 17 carries for 46 yards and a touchdown. Lewis was the Ravens’ leading tackler with 17 tackles. However, there is something that jumps out in both these games that connect each other.
In 2005, the Steelers were driving for what seemed to have been the game clinching score when Bettis himself fumbled on the one-yard line. Colts defender Nick Harper proceeded to pick up the ball and head off to the races with only one man to beat, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Then, it happened. The play that has come to be known in the Pittsburgh Sporting World as “The Tackle.” Roethlisberger somehow tripped up Harper by the shoelace on the Colts 42-yard line. The Steelers defense then held up and Mike Vanderjagt, a usually automatic kicker, had a fourth quarter to forget, missing a 46-yard field goal that would have sent the game into overtime. The Steelers took the game from the Colts by the score of 21-18.
Like the 2005 Steelers, the Ravens relied on late game dramatics to secure their trip into the AFC Championship. The Ravens fell victim to the Broncos’ Trindon Holliday and their return game. Holliday returned a punt for a touchdown in the first quarter and also provided what seemed to be the back breaker in the fourth quarter when he returned a kick for 104 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens however went on a desperation, last minute drive that ended with one of the best defensive backs to ever play, Broncos’ Champ Bailey, along with his teammate let explosive receiver Jacoby Jones behind them. Joe Flacco hit Jones for a 70-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left. The Ravens then won the game in overtime on a field goal by rookie Justin Tucker.
With the win in 2005, the Steelers then had to travel to Mile High and play the two seed Denver Broncos and go up against their 10-game home winning streak. The Steelers went on to win the game by a score of 34-17 and ultimately sent Bettis riding into the sunset with a Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks. The Ravens will face the same fate, having to travel to Foxboro and play the No. 2 seed New England Patriots. Like playing in Denver in ’05, playing in Gillette Stadium is no easy task for opposing teams. The Patriots have a 15-3 record at Gillette Stadium the past two years. Most remember the defeat the Ravens suffered in last year’s AFC Championship game where Lee Evans dropped what would be the game winning touchdown and Billy Cundiff missing the field goal to send the Ravens to the Super Bowl.
So the question is, is it destiny for the Ravens to raise the Lombardi Trophy in the Superdome come Feb. 3? Is it fate that the raven’s take the AFC Championship rematch from the team that sent them packing last year? With all the similarities that there are between the 2005 Steelers and the 2012 Ravens it’s beginning to look like it might be.
Photo Credits: US Presswire