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Black & Gold Time Capsule: Steelers-Ravens matchup history and more ahead of Week 5

A few great moments from the best rivalry in football

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers return home to Acrisure Stadium to face the Baltimore Ravens at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. The loss to the Texans still stings, and stinks, mightily. It’s hard to wrap your head around this actually happening, but a win over the former Browns would send the Steelers to the bye week sitting in first place in the AFC North. The good news for the Steelers is that win or lose they won’t have to fly on the team plane afterwards.

Steelers vs. Ravens matchup history

What can you say about the Baltimore Ravens? As a Steeler fan, what can you say that is actually printable? In college football, the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry is known as “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate”. Get that word “Clean” out of there and maybe the “Old-Fashioned” part too and we have Steelers-Ravens, no need to restrict the hate.

In 1996 the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore and changed their name to the Ravens. Can’t blame them. If I was a Brown I would go into witness protection-style hiding also. Somehow the intensity of the rivalry got ratcheted up a few notches when the Browns became the Purples. Fittingly the first score in a Steelers-Ravens game came from the defense. While celebrating his 43-yard pick-six, Rod Woodson couldn’t have realized that he was setting the tone for decades to come. In the 58 games played, only 10 times have both teams managed to break the 20-point barrier together. 30 times the losing team failed to break 15 points. Six times the winning team didn’t break 15 either! These aren’t shootouts, they are slug fests. If you play fantasy football, you have probably considered benching even the biggest stars whenever these two teams meet.

The Steelers hold a slight edge in this series at 33-25 (3-1 in the playoffs), including five of the last six. The Steelers have a pair of five-game win streaks against the Ravens while Baltimore has three min-runs of three wins against Pittsburgh. The two teams historically like to run the football on offense and bloody the opposition on defense. 40 of these games have been decided by 10 points or less, making these battles a full-out 60-minute physical and emotional draining. Rarely does either team escape the game at full strength.

The most recent meeting happened in January. Kenny Pickett threw a last-minute beautiful 10-yard TD pass to Najee Harris to cap off 13 unanswered points as the Steelers would prevail 16-13. It looked like the Steelers had immediately replaced their franchise QB.

In January of 2022, Ben Roethlisberger would throw his last of 43 TDs against the Ravens in a 16-13 OT victory. The 6-yard toss to Chase Claypool would give Big Ben credit for the last of his 41 career fourth-quarter comebacks.

Christmas of 2016 provided arguably the best Steelers moment of the series, the Immaculate Extension. Trailing 27-24 with nine seconds left and no timeouts, Big Ben hit Antonio Brown at the 2-yard line where he was immediately met by two Ravens. A tackle would end the game. The 185 lb WR would fight through the attempted tackle by LB C.J. Moseley and S Eric Weddle—445 lbs of Raven. As Weddle pulled on Brown’s face mask, Antonio stretched the football across the goal line for the game winning TD in a 31-27 victory that clinched the AFC North for the Steelers.

How could the Immaculate Extension not be the slam dunk best Steelers moment of the series? The stakes were much higher in 2008 when the teams met in the AFC Championship. The Steeler defense would limit the Ravens to 198 yards of offense while sacking QB Joe Flacco three times and creating four turnovers. The biggest of those takeaways was a Troy Polamalu INT that he returned 40 yards for a TD with that hair flowing behind him as he crossed the field and raised the ball above his head for the last five yards in a swarm of eight Ravens closing in on him. That extended the Steelers lead to 23-14 with 4:30 to go and the party in the stands at Heinz Field was officially begun. The party would continue throughout Steeler Nation until the sixth Lombardi Trophy made its way to Pittsburgh after Super Bowl XLIII.

Ravens changes for 2023

The biggest story of the Raven offseason was the new five-year $260 million contract for Lamar Jackson after a very public squabble over his salary. This will be Jackson’s fifth year as a starter and the Ravens did what they usually do in the offseason. For the third time in those five years, they used a first-round pick on a WR (Marquise Brown, Rashod Bateman, and now Zay Flowers). They’ve also used two second-round and two fourth-round picks on WRs over that span. In addition, they signed Odell Beckham—the third former first-round pick free agent WR in the past five years (Dez Bryant and Sammy Watkins)—Jeez, it must be the WRs that are the problem with this offense. Beckham received a one-year contract with $15 million guaranteed and an additional $3 million in incentives. The often-injured WR missed all of 2022 and hasn’t caught 50 passes in a season since 2019. He made it all the way to Week 2 before getting injured this year (ankle) and missed their last two games. Lucky for the Ravens, with 5 catches for 66 yards through 4 games, Beckham is not on pace to earn any of the $3 million in incentives.

Family Ties: Steelers-Ravens connections

  • WR/ST Miles Boykin is the lone former Raven on the Steeler roster.
  • DB Arthur Maulet is the only former Steeler in Baltimore.
  • Previously TE Eric Green, QB Kordell Stewart, OT Alejandro Villanueva, WR Mike Wallace, and DB Rod Woodson all played for the Ravens after first playing for the Steelers.
  • DB Carnell Lake finished his career in Baltimore, starting one game as a Raven in 2001.
  • The only Steeler of note to come from Baltimore other than Boykin was DE Chris Wormley.
  • LB James Harrison was signed by the Ravens after being cut by the Steelers three times his rookie year, but would never play in a regular season game for them before being cut again and returning to Pittsburgh to carve out a legendary career.