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Flacco eyeing rare four-peat in Pittsburgh

10/18/2013

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is looking to accomplish something that hasn't been achieved in Pittsburgh for 44 years.

With a win at Heinz Field on Sunday, Flacco would become the first visiting quarterback to win four straight regular-season games in Pittsburgh since Sonny Jurgensen won five in a row with the Washington Redskins from 1964 to 1969, according to ESPN Stats & Information. How long ago was that? The Steelers were playing their final season at Pitt Stadium before moving to Three Rivers Stadium the following year.

Flacco once stood on the sideline of Heinz Field for two years as a backup for the University of Pittsburgh. Now, he has starred on that same field for the Ravens. In his last three regular-season trips there, Flacco has completed 62 percent of passes (72 of 116) for 720 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.

"We haven't won there as much as we'd like to, but we've always played well there and won there the last handful of years," Flacco said. "I think anytime you [go] somewhere and play well, it gives you a little bit of comfort level playing there."

Before Flacco was drafted by Baltimore, the Ravens won four times in 13 games in Pittsburgh. Only one Ravens quarterback (Tony Banks) had won there more than once.

Since 2010, Flacco is 3-0 in Pittsburgh during the regular season and 11-13 elsewhere on the road. The Steelers did get the best of Flacco in the playoffs following the 2010 season, but that doesn't mean Flacco has failed to step up when it counts.

In 2010, Flacco was down 14-10 with 68 seconds remaining and no timeouts. He finished off a 40-yard drive with an 18-yard pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 32 seconds left.

In 2011, Flacco started a drive at his own 8-yard line, behind 20-16 with 2:24 left. He marched down the field against the NFL's top-ranked defense and hit Torrey Smith for a 26-yard touchdown with eight seconds remaining.

"The quarterback is the biggest driver of some of that stuff, obviously in two-minute," coach John Harbaugh said. "I’d like to think that those are team wins also."

In order for Flacco to pull off the four-peat, he is going to need help from the rest of the team, especially in pass protection. Only three quarterbacks have been sacked more than Flacco this season.

Last Sunday, Flacco was sacked five times, tying a career high. That was against the Green Bay Packers, and the Ravens will see some of the same blitzes from the Steelers. In his career, the Ravens are 19-20 when Flacco is sacked three or more times and 47-13 when he’s sacked two or fewer times, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"You’ve got to handle that against the Steelers," Harbaugh said about Pittsburgh's ability to pressure the quarterback. "We’ve seen their scheme a lot, we understand it, but we’ve got to execute against it, and that’s challenging. [Pittsburgh defensive coordinator] Dick LeBeau is a great coach. He builds a great scheme, and we know the challenges of that scheme.”