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No. 13: Steelers edge rival Ravens in another grudge match

As the research analyst for NFL Network's NFL RedZone, Elliot Harrison watched all 267 games in the 2010 season. We asked him to rank the 20 most memorable.

Fact: Some people just don't like defensive football.

Some players wonder if those in the league office are among those who don't, pointing to all the rules aimed to give the offense advantages. Who knows?

But years of research have reflected fans' propensity to gravitate toward an offensive outburst rather than a defensive slugfest. Game 13 on our list is a nod to the latter.

When the Steelers and Ravens meet, it always feels like a heavyweight fight, doesn't it? Rarely does either team put 30 points up ... the most either scored in their previous eight meetings was 23 points. They split their regular-season meetings, 17-14 and 13-10. Despite having quality quarterbacks in Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger, those games weren't exactly Marino-Fouts II.

OK, so maybe there was little offense, but there were huge plays in this playoff battle, including Anquan Boldin's drop in the end zone, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh's stone-hands rendition on the game's final drive. The Ravens also had a punt return touchdown called back for holding. The Steelers made up for it by fumbling away the first half in falling behind 21-7.

That's precisely the MO of good defensive teams. They don't always pummel you, but they force you to make mistakes ... to alter your game plan ... or to execute that game plan perfectly. Stout defensive teams -- like Pittsburgh and Baltimore -- cause everyone to play tight, which leads to drops and penalties.

Yet, it would ultimately be a punt that determined the outcome. Well, sort of.

With the score tied at 24 just a few ticks shy of the 2-minute warning, the Steelers were faced with a third-and-19. There aren't a lot of plays in offensive coordinator Bruce Arian's playbook designed for third-and-a-mile.

That's when his veteran quarterback stepped in.

"Let's just chuck it deep," Roethlisberger told Arians. "If they pick it, it will be a pick way down there, just as good as a punt ... I just throw it as far as I can.'"

Roethlisberger launched a pass that easily traveled 50 yards in the air toward a streaking Antonio Brown. On a catch that only David Tyree could appreciate, Brown wedged the ball against the right side of his crown to maintain possession. Pittsburgh went from third-and-too-long to first-and-goal inside the 5-yard line.

Rashard Mendenhall would score five plays later, and Pittsburgh went on to win one of the better playoff games of 2010.

Game rewind


During the first quarter, Terrell Suggs put a heavy rush on Roethlisberger. As Roethlisberger pump faked, the Ravens linebacker knocked the ball loose. As it laid on the torn-up Heinz Field grass, Suggs celebrated the "incomplete pass" he had just forced.

One problem: It wasn't an incomplete pass. Despite the fact that the official's whistle never blew, all but one player ignored the ball as it sat on the turf. Consider it a brain fart by the other players, as Cory Redding was paying attention and made a B-line for the football. Redding picked it up, scored and just like that it was 14-7, Baltimore.

Boneheaded play of the game

There might have been no bigger Baltimore mistake than Boldin's drop: Trailing 24-21 with 3:58 to go in a hostile environment, against the archrival Steelers, with an AFC Championship berth on the line ... bad timing, dude.

The Ravens shot themselves in the foot the entire second half, but Boldin's gaffe was particularly painful as it came on third-and-goal from the 6-yard line. Baltimore had to settle for a field goal, giving Roethlisberger the ball with more than three minutes to go in a tie game.

Play of the game

The bomb to Brown is definitely worth seeing again. Roethlisberger lets go of it just a breath past the Steelers' 30-yard line, and it comes down perfectly in Brown's hand at the Ravens' 14.

You can tell it took everything Roethlisberger had in him to knife it through the cold air at that late stage in the game. And the catch? Wow.

Why is this game No. 13 of 2010?

Consider this an aggregate award. Be honest, love 'em or hate 'em, every Ravens-Steelers game is extremely competitive, and usually compelling. These clubs just don't blow each other out. Their early season meeting in Pittsburgh was a great struggle, with Flacco hitting Houshmandzadeh late for the winning touchdown. Then there was the Troy Polamalu strip-sack game in Week 13. Either of those could have made the cut.

Ultimately, No. 13 on our list had the most riding on the outcome. That's why it's here.

Why not higher?

Spoiler alert: This is not the best representation of the 2010 postseason. There were several playoff games that were similar in quality: The Jetstaking down the top-seeded Patriots, as well as the AFC Championship Game were both as competitive as the Ravens-Steelers playoff grudge match, if not as entertaining. That made it harder to put this divisional playoff tilt higher.

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