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OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — As a reward for squeezing into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, the Baltimore Ravens face a loathsome foe in a very unfriendly environment.
Baltimore's contentious rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers resumes Saturday night at Heinz Field, where the Ravens have experienced nothing but agony during the postseason.
Pittsburgh and Baltimore met in the playoffs in 2002, 2009 and 2011. The Steelers won each time.
And now, here we go again.
"It's a great challenge," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "It's another playoff game there. We'd like to win one, one of these days."
Pittsburgh and Baltimore have already played twice this season, with each AFC North team winning by 20 points at home. Including the playoffs, the Steelers lead the series 24-17.
"We love this rivalry, we love being a part of it," Harbaugh said, "and I believe they feel the same way."
Memories of Hines Ward jawing at the Ravens, Terrell Suggs yelling at the Steelers and Jacoby Jones skipping past Mike Tomlin on the sideline are some of the highlights of the Steelers-Ravens rivalry. Mostly, the rivalry is about hard hits, helmet-jarring tackles and bloody noses.
Asked what stands out most, Harbaugh replied, "The physicality, first of all, and the intensity. Every play, whether it's a playoff game or not, is played at that level."
Baltimore (10-6) finished third in the division behind Pittsburgh (11-5) and needed some help Sunday just to qualify as the sixth seed. A combination of the Ravens' 20-10 win over Cleveland and San Diego's 19-7 loss to Kansas City provided Baltimore a return to the postseason after last year's 8-8 disappointment.
Harbaugh sent a thank-you text to Chiefs coach Andy Reid, his former boss in Philadelphia.
"I promised Andy dinner, and he responded very favorably to that," Harbaugh said. "It probably won't be cheap."
The Ravens stumbled in Houston before rallying to defeat the Browns, so it's not as if they're entering the playoffs with a full head of steam. But here they are, and they figure they've got as good a chance as anyone to advance to the Super Bowl.
"It's all equal now," Harbaugh said.
"All you've got to do is win all your games," Suggs said. "If you ask me, I think we're a (heck) of a team on the road. Sometimes, that's the way you've got to go. But everything's 0-0, all things are new, and we've gotten to the second season."
Two years ago, Baltimore needed to win at Denver and New England to advance to the Super Bowl. That is exactly what happened.
So, why not now?
"I think that we're battle-tested and we've been through a lot," guard Marshal Yanda said. "We're ready to roll."
Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata returns from a four-game suspension for using the amphetamine Adderall. But Baltimore might be without rookie defensive lineman Timmy Jernigan, who hurt his left foot against Cleveland.
That will be sorted out this week. Regardless, after enduring the suspension and subsequent release of Ray Rice, the Ngata suspension and injuries to more than a dozen key players, Baltimore made it to the postseason for the sixth time in seven years under Harbaugh.
"It says a lot about the organization," the coach said. "I feel really happy for the guys who have a chance to play after what we've been through this year. I'm happy for them and proud of them and excited for the opportunity to walk with them through this next challenge."
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