Expect another nail-biter Sunday night between Steelers and Ravens

Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers

One of the NFL’s top rivalries is renewed in prime time. And will the Baltimore Ravens end their recent losing ways against the Pittsburgh Steelers?

It remains one of the premier divisional clashes in the National Football League. And that despite the fact that the Baltimore Ravens have not been the same sort of postseason force as they were during the first five seasons of the John Harbaugh’s head coaching career.

Since 2013, the Ravens own a 42-41 regular-season record and have reached the postseason just once (’14) over that span. This season, Harbaugh’s 2-1 club has rolled the Buffalo Bills (47-3) and Denver Broncos (27-14) by a combined 74-17 count. In between, Baltimore was humbled at Cincinnati on a Thursday night by a 34-23 score. Which version of the Ravens will we see in the Steel City?

And who is to say what we can expect from the Pittsburgh Steelers the remainder of the season? The club is coming off a 30-27 win on Monday night at Tampa Bay, “raising” their record this season to 1-1-1. Mike Tomlin’s team has reached the playoffs each of the past four NFL campaigns and won the AFC North three times over that span. But the team is off to a perplexing start and Mike Tomlin’s defense has unfortunately picked up where it dropped off late last season.

Including that wild playoff loss at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars in January, the Steelers have allowed 27.6 points per game and a distressing 35 offensive touchdowns in their last 10 overall outings. During the team’s 8-2 start in 2017, this club allowed only 16 offensive TDs and just 16.5 points per contest. In three outings this season, defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s unit has totaled 11 sacks and still managed to give up 10 touchdowns through the air.

So can Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco take advantage of the Steelers’ defensive generosity? It’s not like he hasn’t had his share of success against this team lately. Yes, Pittsburgh has prevailed in three straight meetings dating back to the clubs’ Christmas night encounter in 2016 at Heinz Field. But including a playoff win in ’14 at Pittsburgh, the 11-year signal-caller is 8-6 in his last 14 meetings with Tomlin’s club. There have been 19 touchdown passes opposed to only eight interceptions and a total of only 11 turnovers.

Compare that to Flacco’s eight meetings with the Steelers from 2008-10, two of those in the postseason. There were only two wins and the then-young quarterback turned over the football a combined 13 times in those eight contests. He was sacked 29 times and managed only seven touchdowns passes and a combined 1,550 yards through the air.

But the one overwhelming theme of this series the past 10 seasons has been the competitive nature of these clubs. Including three playoff clashes, there have been a total of 23 meetings between Harbaugh’s Ravens and Tomlin’s Steelers. Pittsburgh owns a 12-11 edge over that span thanks to their current three-game string of success. All told, 17 of these 23 contests have been decided by seven points or less – 13 of those games by three or fewer points.

Three weeks into the season, the AFC North is already bunched up from top to bottom. The Ravens, Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns each have one loss. As for Sunday evening, grab your hard-shelled crabs and/or your favorite sandwich from Primanti Brothers and enjoy what should be another close game between Harbaugh’s and Tomlin’s squads.

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