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Despite the close rivalry, the Steelers always seem to get the best of the Ravens in AFC North supremacy

While the Steelers and Ravens rivalry over the past decade couldn't have been closer, Pittsburgh usually has been the team that’s found a way to claim AFC North supremacy.

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Despite the cesspool that is normally a Steelers vs. Bengals game, there’s just nothing like the raw intensity of a Steelers/Ravens matchup.

As many have noted over the years, Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore may actually be the best rivalry in the NFL.

Is it?

Think about this: Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh have now been head coaching adversaries since the latter became the Ravens' sideline general in 2008.

That was a decade ago and, since then, the two AFC North combatants have faced each other on 23 separate occasions—20 regular season matchups; three postseason matchups.

The Steelers hold a razor-thin edge in the win/loss column, with 12 victories, to the Ravens’ 11.

Regarding the point-differential, Baltimore has scored 480, to Pittsburgh's 469.

As far as rivalries go, you can't get much closer than that.

However, when it comes to winning the AFC North, an accomplishment that comes with an inherent advantage in postseason play—and is often the only avenue for getting there—the Steelers have had the Ravens’ number in the Tomlin/Harbaugh era.

With their 39-38 AFC North-clinching victory over Baltimore at Heinz Field on Sunday night, the Steelers have now secured a playoff spot for the seventh time since '08.

At 7-6, the Ravens still have a more than realistic chance of punching their ticket as a wild-card and, if they do, it’ll also be their seventh postseason appearance in 10 seasons.

Yet, despite the Ravens’ propensity for playing January football, they've only won two division titles since '08.

Conversely, the Steelers have now claimed their fifth AFC North crown since the Pittsburgh/Baltimore rivalry became must-see TV ten seasons ago.

Perhaps that's why Baltimore, despite its ascension to a marquee level close to that of teams like the Steelers, Patriots and Packers, hasn't truly been able to cement its status as one of the NFL elite.

It's just plum harder to attain championship glory when you must play three postseason games just to make it to the Super Bowl—and do so by winning every single one of them away from home.

The Steelers haven’t only clinched five AFC North crowns since John Harbaugh became head coach of their biggest rivals—they've stood directly in Baltimore's way of doing the same on three of those occasions.

In 2008, 2010 and 2015, the playoff-landscape may have been totally different, had the Ravens found a way to claim AFC North supremacy.

However, Pittsburgh walked away with late-season victories each time, and even eliminated Baltimore from the playoffs last year with a thrilling 31-27 victory at Heinz Field on Christmas Day.

The Steelers divisional titles in '08 and '10 also came with byes, and ultimately led to epic postseason showdowns against Baltimore at Heinz Field, with the Black-and-gold surviving both on their way to Super Bowls XLIII and XLV.

Would things have turned out differently on one or both occasions had the Steelers been forced to don their road-whites and play at M&T Bank Stadium?

We'll never know, but we do know each team has won a Super Bowl in the Tomlin/Harbaugh era.

Could it have been more for the Ravens, had they been able to avoid racking up so many frequent flyer miles during postseason play?

Again, we'll never know.

I do know that while the "road warriors" label can be a rather sexy and alluring one, it's not nearly as hot as sleeping in your own warm bed in January.

The Steelers will be doing that once the playoffs start next month, while the Ravens—if they're lucky—will have to board a plane.