After routing Chiefs, Ravens ready for third game vs. Steelers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For the Baltimore Ravens, working up any sort of genuine animosity for the Kansas City Chiefs was difficult.

These teams just don't know each other well enough to harbor such feelings, and meeting in an AFC Wild Card game wasn't going to change that. It wasn't even possible for the Ravens to draw upon any postseason history with the Chiefs -- whose last playoff appearance was in 2006 -- to put them in a foul mood, because they had never met during this time of year before.

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So after disposing of the Chiefs, 30-7, it was fairly easy for the Ravens to put their focus on a team they know extremely well and truly dislike: The Pittsburgh Steelers.

"If you want to play somebody, you want to play your rival," Ravens nose tackle Kelly Gregg said of next Saturday's divisional-round game against the Steelers at Heinz Field. "Those are the kind of games you love. You're trying to beat your nemesis."

Added linebacker Jarret Johnson, "It's one of the more heated rivalries in the NFL, if not, in my opinion, the most heated rivalry. It's always a great game; it's always a physical game."

The clubs split the season series with close wins on each other's home turf. But it's the Ravens who began the postseason with a dominant road performance. They had an overwhelming edge in time of possession (41:44-18:16) and forced the Chiefs into five turnovers while losing two.

How confident are the Ravens? Fullback Le'Ron McClain, for one, fully expects his team to advance to the AFC Championship Game.

"We did it earlier in the year," he said of Baltimore's 17-14 victory at Pittsburgh in Week 4. "I think we can do it again."

However, when the teams last met in the postseason, for the 2008 AFC title, the Steelers won, 23-14.

The Raven players who were on that team haven't forgotten. They want revenge, although the challenge will be enormous. The Ravens shouldn't count on piling up 390 yards of offense, including 142 on the ground, as they did against the Chiefs. During the regular season, the Steelers had the NFL's second-ranked defense and far and away were tops against the run.

The Ravens will tell you their first offensive key is to remain patient.

"You know their defense is going to make plays because they're a great defense," McClain said. "You just can't get flustered with one (bad) play. Go onto the next and just continue to build on each play. You just can't get focused in on that one play and get down on yourself because they're going to make plays."

One player who will likely make his share is superstar safety Troy Polamalu. Ravens tight end Todd Heap, for one, isn't counting on duplicating his 10-catch, 108-yard effort against Kansas City. He knows that Polamalu specializes in putting himself between the ball and every pass-catching tight end.

"Since he's been there, he's been one of the best safeties in the NFL, players in the league," Heap said. "The things he does on the football field, certain plays that he makes, you don't see a lot of guys making those plays. There are only a couple of guys in the NFL that can do the things that he does."

Members of the Ravens' defense, which ranked 10th overall and fifth against the run, understand they have a fairly big task in dealing with a balanced Steelers offense that is equally capable of grinding it out on the ground as it is making big plays through the air.

With two Super Bowl rings, Ben Roethlisberger presents a far different opponent than the Chiefs' Matt Cassel, who, in his first postseason start, completed only nine of 18 passes for 70 yards, threw three interceptions and finished with a passer rating of 20.4. Roethlisberger, who won his only game against Baltimore during the regular season (he missed the first while serving a suspension), poses a constant threat with his mobility and tremendous strength that allow him to routinely extend plays.

"Even though, in the past couple of years, they have been a passing offense, any time they play us, they're going to rely on the run," Johnson said. "The other thing is not letting Ben out of the pocket. You can't let him scramble around and make those throws downfield."

Despite sharing 12-4 records in the regular season, the Steelers won the AFC North and a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed in the AFC behind New England, while the Ravens are the fifth seed. That means they'll likely be on the road throughout the playoffs.

But the Ravens don't seem the least bit daunted about the long, hard path they must travel to get to the Super Bowl. They certainly aren't bothered by the fact that it goes through Pittsburgh.

"Our guys know we can get the job done," McClain said. "We've just got to go in there and prove it."

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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