The Steelers and Ravens fierce AFC-North rivalry, often dubbed the greatest in the NFL during the past half decade or so, has turned Baltimore's way in recent years. The Ravens have posted five victories in the past seven games, dating back to Week 1 of 2011, with the latest vanquish coming in the form of a 26-6 victory over Pittsburgh at M&T Bank Stadium, Thursday night.
While it's true that most of these games have been close (Thursday's game notwithstanding), with five of the seven previous match-ups being decided by three points or less, one doesn't need to look much further than two key statistics to perhaps determine why the Ravens have had the edge in recent years.
Going back to that Week 1 contest in 2011 (a 35-7 victory by Baltimore), the Steelers' defense has managed to pry the football away from Joe Flacco and Co. a grand-total of three times in 28 quarters. By comparison, the Ravens' defense has victimized Pittsburgh's offense to the tune of 19 turnovers, including seven takeaways in the Week 1 blow-out three years ago.
In fact, while Ben Roethlisberger and gang have turned the football over to the Ravens defense four times in three games dating back to a Week 7 match-up at Heinz Field last season, the Steelers defense has been unable to extract the football from Baltimore's offense since former linebacker James Harrison sacked Flacco to force a critical, fourth-quarter fumble in the Steelers thrilling 23-20 victory on December 2, 2012.
Maybe the Steelers' struggles against Baltimore in the giveaway/takeaway department are due to their problems both in protecting and sacking the quarterback.
Again, dating back to that Week 1 debacle on September 11, 2011, the Ravens' pass-rush has gotten to the Steelers quarterbacks 17 times, compared to the 11 times Pittsburgh has landed Flacco on his back with ball in hand.
Furthermore, the Steelers pass-rush has only sacked Flacco one time over the past three match-ups, including zero sacks over the past two played at M&T Bank Stadium.
Say what you want about Flacco's quarterbacking capabilities, but he's capable enough to take advantage of a defense that can't put any pressure on him or take the football away.
The Steelers' problems in getting after the quarterback and protecting their own have prevailed for quite some time. In the turnover department, Pittsburgh is a whopping minus-35 over the past 50 games, characterizing a defense that hasn't recorded more than 20 in a full season since the start of 2011 and an offense that hasn't recorded fewer than 24.
You're not going to win many games when you struggle in those areas, and that's certainly the case when encountering your No. 1 rival.