It’s that time again. Time for the second installment of the semi-annual “Smashmouth Bowl”.
Twice a year (and sometimes 3 times per year) the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens get together for what is probably the most hard-hitting rivalry in the NFL.
These two teams are mirror images of one another (except the Ravens are loaded with criminals). Both of them play tough, physical defense (although our defense is better than theirs), both like to set up the pass by running the ball (although our running game is better than theirs), both have talented young quarterbacks (although our quarterback is better than theirs), and both have passionate fans (although our fans are better than theirs).
Okay, perhaps Baltimore would be better described as a pale reflection of Pittsburgh, but you get my point.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure what to expect from this year’s “Smashmouth Bowl”. The two teams met earlier in the year, and Baltimore managed to get a last second win. But that was before the Steelers had Ben Roethlisberger back. Big Ben ALWAYS beats the Ravens. So this game should be very different from the first meeting.
More importantly, this will be the first time that the two teams have met since Roger Goodell instituted his new “kinder, gentler” rules. The new rules seem to outlaw the very type of football that the Steelers and Ravens excel at. Will this change the very nature of the war between these two teams?
Will the game still be the same if players aren’t leaving on stretchers? Will it still be exciting if James Harrison can’t drive Joe Flacco into the ground? Will it still be manly, even if Ray Lewis doesn’t get to break one of our players’ collarbone? Will it still be the “Smashmouth Bowl” even if Hines Ward doesn’t get to knockout a Ravens defensive back (or two)?
Hopefully, the referees will understand the nature of this rivalry, and will not go overboard with the flags. Frankly, I didn’t enjoy watching the flag-filled game against the Oakland Raiders. I don’t want to see that many flags in this game.
The Raiders have already won the first game in this year’s series. The Steelers will try very hard to not allow them to sweep the series. We need this win to stay atop the AFC North. In fact, a win on Sunday will put us in the drivers’ seat.
The Ravens have only swept the Steelers one time. That was back in 2006.
The Steelers, on the other hand, have swept the series 4 times, and in 2008 we defeated the Ravens 3 times. So history seems to be on our side.
The one factor that does make me nervous is the health of the offensive line. The Ravens have some gigantic defensive linemen to throw at the Steelers. If the offensive line is unhealthy, it could be a long day.
I predict a typical, physical Steelers/Ravens game. But when the dust finally settles, I anticipate a Steelers win. Big Ben just has the Raven’s number. Remember, the Ravens’ last two wins over the Steelers came with Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch at the helm. Big Ben changes the dynamic completely.
I predict a 24-13 Steelers win, and the Steelers taking sole possession of the AFC North lead. Can I get an “Amen”?
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