Curtain call: aiming to follow 2005 Steelers' lead

The Baltimore Sun

Another playoff trip to top-seeded Tennessee. Another meeting with Kerry Collins. Another Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla.

Everything points to a repeat of the Ravens' 2000 Super Bowl season.

But there are just as many comparisons between this season's Ravens and - ahem - the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Before Ravens Nation cries blasphemy, listen to why you want the Ravens to continue following in the footsteps of their division rival.

The 2005 Steelers are really the one hope for NFL's No. 6 seeds. Three years ago, Pittsburgh became the only sixth seed to upset a top seed, edging the Indianapolis Colts in a wild 21-18 victory.

Outside of those Steelers, No. 6 seeds are 0-10 against No. 1 seeds in NFL postseason history (the league expanded its playoffs to 12 teams in 1990). Of those 10 losses, all but one has been by decided by double digits. The average margin of defeat has been 19.4 points.

The Ravens could beat the odds as the 2005 Steelers did. Consider parallels:

* Quarterbacks: Both are tall, 23-year-old passers who didn't come from traditional football powerhouses (Joe Flacco went to Delaware, and Ben Roethlisberger came from Miami of Ohio). They also quickly received nicknames from their adoring fans ("Joe Cool" and "Big Ben").

* Running game: To take the pressure off their young quarterbacks, both teams relied on ground attacks that finished in the top five in the NFL. The difference was Pittsburgh went with speed for most of the drive (Willie Parker) and turned to power in the red zone (Jerome Bettis). The Ravens go with power (Le'Ron McClain) on first and second down and shift to speed in passing situations (Willis McGahee and Ray Rice).

* Defense: The backbone of both teams proved to be defenses that ended in the top five in the league. The emotional leader was at linebacker (Ray Lewis for the Ravens and Joey Porter for Pittsburgh). The playmaker was at safety (Ed Reed for the Ravens and Troy Polamalu for the Steelers).

* Records: Both teams overcame three-game losing streaks to finish with double-digit win totals. How unusual is that? In the 19 seasons since the NFL expanded to a 12-team playoff field, only two No. 6 seeds have ended the regular season with 11-5 records. You guessed it - the 2005 Steelers and this season's Ravens.

look out for no. 1

Since the NFL expanded its playoff field to 12 teams, top seeds have a 10-1 record when facing No. 6 seeds:

Season Top seed Sixth seed Top seed's result

1991 Washington Atlanta Won, 27-7

1992 San Francisco Washington Won, 20-13

1993 Dallas Green Bay Won, 27-17

1994 San Francisco Chicago Won, 44-15

1997 San Francisco Minnesota Won, 38-22

1998 Minnesota Arizona Won, 41-21

1999 Jacksonville Miami Won, 62-7

2002 Philadelphia Atlanta Won, 20-6

2004 Philadelphia Minnesota Won, 27-14

2005 Seattle Washington Won, 20-10

2005 Indianapolis Pittsburgh Lost, 21-18

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