By Teresa Varley
It was back to work for the Steelers on Monday as the exhilaration of defeating the San Diego Chargers to advance to the AFC Championship game was put behind them and focusing on the Baltimore Ravens was front and center.
"What else would you expect?" said head coach Mike Tomlin. "Us and the Ravens; it would be a big game if it was a scrimmage. It just happens to be the AFC championship game."
The Steelers won the two regular season meetings against the Ravens this year, defeating them 13-9 at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 14 when Santonio Holmes scored on a four-yard touchdown reception with just 43 seconds left to play in the game.
The Steelers defeated the Ravens 23-20 on Sept. 29 at Heinz Field in overtime, with a 46-yard Jeff Reed field goal being the difference maker.
"We know what Baltimore is capable of doing," said tight end Heath Miller. "They are one of the best in the league at what they do – pound the ball rushing it and play great defense. It's going to be a tough match."
While the running game was rolling for the Steelers against the Chargers, with Willie Parker gaining 146 yards, the Ravens are tough to move against on the ground. In the first meeting the Steelers managed 69 yards rushing, while the second time around they rushed for 91 yards, with Parker gaining 47 of those yards.
"They're stingy," said Parker. "The thing about the Ravens is that they are going to fight like we are going to fight. It's going to be a tough, brutal matchup. We just have to go out and make plays and try to keep our defense off the field."
The game has the makings for a classic defensive battle as the Steelers finished the regular season with the NFL's top-ranked defense and the Ravens finished second.
"It's going to be very, very physical," said defensive end Brett Keisel. "Both teams know what's at stake. Both teams know each other. Both teams like to run the ball and play tough, hard-nosed defense. It's going to be a very physical game.
"We have a tough, tough, tough, team coming in here. They know us. We know them. It's going to be a big challenge, but we're one step away and we're happy to be at home.""