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For Ravens to Fly into AFC Championship, Flacco Must Hurdle Roethlisberger & Steelers.

Flacco aims to beat Steelers twice in the same season for the first time in his career

There are plenty of teams in the NFL starving for quarterbacks.  Without question, if those teams were asked whether or not they would choose to build around Joe Flacco, I don’t envision there would be many teams that would pass up.  He isn’t talked about nearly as much in the conversation of the game’s top young guns, like Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan or his counterpart today, Ben Roethlisberger.  With a win over Pittsburgh today in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, Flacco’s name will begin to mentioned more frequently.

Both Roethlisberger and Flacco can be described in similar ways:  big bodies, big arms, ability to make plays outside of the pocket, ability to make plays when it seems all is lost.  These two, along with their respective teams, aren’t here by luck or happenstance.  But Big Ben has a couple of things Flacco is missing:  Super Bowl wins and success at Heinz Field.

In his first Super Bowl in 2005, the Steelers won the title in spite of Roethlisberger who was terrible: 9-of-21, two interceptions, one rushing touchdown and a QB rating of 22.6.  Three years later, Roethlisberger returned to the biggest stage in all of sports and the Steelers claimed their sixth Super Bowl because of Roethlisberger, who lead perhaps the most memorable game-winning drive capped off a Super Bowl clinching touchdown to then Steelers wideout Santonio Holmes.  Two Super Bowl titles in four years?  Not bad for the big kid with the lengthy last name.

Now it’s Roethlisberger who stands in the way of Flacco and the Ravens once more.  This won’t be rocket science: only one team and only one quarterback will advance to next week’s conference title game.  Either Big Ben will become just two wins away from his third Super Bowl championship or it’ll be Flacco who emerges out of the shadow of Roethlisberger and shorten the gap on the other hot-shot young quarterbacks in the NFL.

It’s likely Flacco will need his best game, regular season or playoffs, in just three short seasons in the NFL to conquer the Steelers.  It hasn’t come easy for Flacco, who’s been vexed at times by the Steelers.  He’s 2-5 in seven games against Pittsburgh.  His rookie season in 2008, Flacco lost to the Steelers three times, while losing four of his first five games in his career against the Steelers.  His worst game against Pittsburgh came in that third meeting in 2008, the AFC Championship.  Flacco completed just 13 passes for 141 yards and three costly interceptions.  In stark contrast, Roethlisberger is 6-0 in his last six games in which he’s started against the Ravens and 8-2 in his career in the playoffs.  Pittsburgh is 2-0 all time in the playoffs versus Baltimore.  Today marks the second time in three years these teams will play each other three times. 

Last week, Flacco came of age with 265 yards and two touchdowns leading the Ravens to a convincing victory on the road against Kansas City.  He’s no stranger to playing on the road in the playoffs, collecting four road victories the past three seasons.  Overall, Flacco is 4-2 in the playoffs and a win today would give him five playoff wins on the road, two more than Roethlisberger has.  But the Steel City has been very unwelcoming to Flacco.

In the first regular season meeting between the teams this season, Flacco finally claimed victory at Heinz Field, leading a last-second comeback with :32 second left to give the Ravens the victory, 17-14.  That was the first time in four games at Pittsburgh Flacco came out victorious.  In his career at Heinz Field, Flacco is 1-3 including the playoffs with four touchdowns and five interceptions. 

Here’s a quick look at Flacco’s number at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh:

  • Sept. 29, 2008 (first start at Pitt) – 16/31, 192 yards 1 TD, O INT  L 23-20 OT
  • Jan. 18, 2009 AFC Championship Game – 13/30, 141 yards, 3 INTs  L 23-14
  • Dec. 27, 2009 – 13/25, 166 yards, 2 TD’s 1 INT  L 23-20
  • Oct. 3, 2010 –  24/37, 256 yards, 1 TD 1 INT  W 17-14

It took Flacco four tries on the road, but this season he finally solved the Heinz Field hex, leading the Ravens to a come-from-behind win while putting up his best passing yards total at Pittsburgh.  Beating the Steelers on the road?  Check.  Beating the Steelers on the road, in the playoffs, for the right to play in the AFC Championship, and beating the Steelers twice in the same season? 

It’ll be up to Flacco to scratch that task off the list.

 


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One Response to “For Ravens to Fly into AFC Championship, Flacco Must Hurdle Roethlisberger & Steelers.”

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