- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's Ravens-Steelers divisional game:
Flacco's performance is key: The playoffs are where players make their names, and it's vital for third-year quarterback Joe Flacco to continue to play well this postseason if the Baltimore Ravens aim to make a Super Bowl run. Flacco is just 2-5 against the Pittsburgh Steelers in his career and has never beaten them with Ben Roethlisberger under center. Flacco has a solid playoff record (4-2), but he hasn't put up great numbers in those games. Flacco took a good step last week by throwing for a playoff-best 265 yards and two touchdowns in a wild-card win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He needs to continue that momentum against Pittsburgh.
Will rust be an issue? The Steelers enjoyed the benefits of the bye but now have to turn it on quickly against their biggest rival. Pittsburgh hasn't played since Jan. 2 during a 41-9 thrashing of the Cleveland Browns. Even then, the game wasn't competitive so several key players got rest in the fourth quarter. A slow start by either team could be the difference in this game, which is almost always close. The Ravens looked extremely sharp last week against Kansas City, and Pittsburgh needs to find a way to regain its edge despite little game action.
In good health: Both teams enter this bitter rivalry in good shape regarding injuries. The only player who likely won't play Saturday is Steelers defensive end Aaron Smith, who is listed doubtful coming off triceps surgery. The Ravens have three players questionable in center Matt Birk (knee), Chris Carr (thigh) and Tom Zbikowski (back). But of the three, Zbikowski is probably the only major concern. The real issue is how many injuries will occur in this slugfest, and will the survivor have enough left in the tank for the AFC Championship Game?