Where do I start?? I know.... January 15th, 2011. The very moment when that dreaded 3rd and 19 took place during the 2010 Divisional Playoffs. As I sat in Heinz Field and watched it go down, I knew then the Ravens had lost all momentum in that game. Up 21-7 by halftime, the Ravens gave the game away to the Steelers with inexcusable plays and unexpected turnovers. The Steelers won, 31-24 and the psychological advantage over Baltimore continued.
Can Baltimore beat Pittsburgh? Sure they can. With Joe Flacco they had beat them before... but never when Ben Roethlisberger was behind center. And that talk became the topic of the offseason. How Joe Flacco wasn't good enough to get over the Steelers hump. Everyone chimed in about Joe Cool. Lamar Woodley said he wouldn't win a Super Bowl in his lifetime.. Ryan Clark said the Ravens-Steelers rivalry wasn't really a rivalry, since they weren't able to beat them. Even Dhani Jones came in to talk about how Flacco couldn't read defenses under pressure. And Joe heard it. He heard and read every single thing that every critic said about him.
If you think for one minute that the Ravens didn't plan to make a statement with this game, then you're wrong. In early August, about a month before the season ever started, RB Ray Rice told SI's Don Banks,
"Maybe when we beat them, we won't just beat them. A win is a win. But if we make a statement, and beat them in a way that they know they were really beaten, I think that leaves a taste.''The Ravens went into this contest knowing that if they didn't punch them in the mouth, doubt would always linger. They had to dominate the game the full 60 mins, something they haven't been able to do in years past.
Do you want to win on opening day at home? Yes. But this was against a bitter rival.. one that talked a lot of smack during the lockout. While the Steelers re-signed majority of their players, the Ravens got younger, dumping veteran players like Todd Heap, Derrick Mason and Kelly Gregg and replaced them with Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson at TE, Lee Evans at WR and allowing NT Terrence Cody to get more involved from a year ago. The Ravens knew they had to get younger, faster and stronger to get over the hump. They did and it paid off in a way that no one saw coming..... no one except for the Ravens.
As I walked into M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, I knew little about what was going to happen. What I did know is that, it was the 10th anniversary of September 11th and the fans would be patriotic. I knew that the opening day festivities would send chills up and down my spine, because after a LONG lockout, football had finally returned unscathed. I knew that my son and I would have a great time, win or lose, because we love this game so much. But the skull dragging (s/o to Rob Long for the selective word) that took place on Sunday was an unexpected surprise that was welcomed with open arms by everyone that donned purple and black that day.
The Steelers talked the talk, but the Ravens walked the walk. Final score, 35-7. Thank you, football gods. The rivalry lives on.