Originally written on Ravens Football Machine  |  Last updated 6/11/12

It's no surprise the Ravens coaching staff will have some Steeler formations and alignments on their minds during mandatory minicamp this 2nd week in June.  It is a given that the Steelers are out to prove their two losses to the Ravens last season were a fluke.

In fact, Steeler fans are almost obsessed with the idea of beating the Ravens twice in 2012.

As Jeremy Hritz puts it in the Steelers Depot blog (http://www.steelersdepot.com) ,beating the Ravens is always a key to the Steelers' season, but now it's turned into a "head game"...

"There will be many motivating factors for the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the 2012 season. However, none is more rousing than beating the Baltimore Ravens."

Hritz goes on to paint a fairly objective picture of the rivalry:

"The Steelers experienced polar opposite losses to their hated rival last year: a complete annihilation in the Charmed City and a last second heartbreaker in Pittsburgh. Both defeats set a precedent for the games that would follow, and they were indicators of the type of play that would characterize the entire 2011 season. "

"Following the first loss [to the Ravens] in the season opener, a surprisingly porous rushing defense and a shaky offensive line was exposed, leading to less-than-stellar wins against Seattle and Indianapolis, and then a defeat at the hands of Houston who outplayed the Steelers in every way. It was not until the following week that the Steelers crushed Tennessee that they established some momentum that resulted in a four game winning streak, culminating with the season-masterpiece win against New England."

"It appeared that the Steelers had righted the ship, and that they would regain their championship swagger from a season ago [2010] when they took down Tom Brady and company, until again, the Ravens landed in Pittsburgh and stole a victory in the final seconds. After this stinging loss, the season was a mixed bag that ended in a devastating playoff loss against Denver."

Since the transition to the AFC North from the AFC Central in 2002, the Steelers have captured the division crown five times, asserting themselves as the yearly favorite. Nonetheless, last year, the Ravens shook their confidence. And now, heading into the 2012 season, if the Steelers have plans of winning another Super Bowl, they have to show that there are no lingering psychological effects of last year’s twin tattooing.

Rarely do either the Steelers or Ravens beat each other in blowout fashion, as the contests normally end on a last second field goal, and no question that the 35-7 loss in the opener raised some doubt in the players in the black and gold uniforms. And then again, to lose a game that they believed their defense had already secured only further shook their team confidence.

Hritz concludes by saying he believes the Steelers must at least split the regular season games with the Ravens in 2012 to have a realistic chance to win the division. He is also banking on the "aging" of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, as well as the departures of OLB Jarrett Johnson and safeties Zbikowski and Nakamura, the loss of DC Chuck Pagano, and the achilles injury to Terrell Suggs to have a combined detrimental effect upon the Ravens' defense.

Sunday night November 18th is a long way off right now... but that's when Hritz' hope for a new omen of Steelers' domination over the Ravens will be put to the test. We'll all get to see if the Ravens have taken a step forward or backwards in the rivalry. History still favors the Steelers, who always seem to win the North the very next year after the Ravens win the division. My own sense is that historical trend is about to be broken. I see the Ravens trending up due to guys devloping from previous and current drafts. The Ravens defense is actually getting younger and better if you really examine the individual position groups as opposed to averaging roster ages.

A lot more will be revealed by the time November 18th, 2012 rolls around. 

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