It’s Ravens-Steelers week, and the rivalry between the two AFC North football teams is still among the best in the NFL.
Sure there isn’t Bart Scott ravaging quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or Ray Lewis putting punishing hits on opposing ball carriers or Hines Ward wreaking havoc on the Ravens secondary, but the rivalry is still strong among fans and current players.
“It’s just a lot of fun, it really is,” said Joe Flacco, who in his last 10 games vs. Pittsburgh has averaged 226.6 passing yards per contest, throwing 13 touchdowns and three interceptions. “That’s where you feel a lot of the energy from, during the game, is the crowd and what kind of energy they have and they bring to it all.
“Obviously, you’re going out there and you’re fighting against guys that are fighting against you, but that happens every week. The teams change so much every year that you draw a lot of that rivalry from the fans and how they look at this game.”
It won’t be an easy task; it never is against the hated team from western Pennsylvania, who lead the regular season series 21-19. However, the Ravens have won three straight against the black and yellow.
“I don’t know,” CB Jimmy Smith pondered after being asked why the rivalry brings out the best in the two franchises. “That is just how rivalries go for years and years. For any other game, it is just not the same. It is not that intensity.
“‘Sizz’ [Terrell Suggs] is not coming out with an iron [gladiator] mask on when we play the Redskins. You feel it and you sense it. I learned it from the veterans here that were here about how much the rivalry meant. For me to pass it down to the young guys to really let them know how intense this game really is, how physical it really is [is important].
“Everybody doesn’t realize. I would say some of the young guys don’t really realize what the NFL is like until they play in this game.”
It’s Still the Same to Suggs
The always vocal Suggs has been the mouthpiece for the Ravens when it comes to the rivalry over the years. His t-shirts have taken shots at their fans, their head coach, and their quarterback. He’s a lightning rod for the media when it comes to Steelers week.
On Wednesday though, Suggs shed some light on just how important playing in these games, and passing on the mentality of this historic rivalry to the younger players is for him.
“I take a tremendous amount [of responsibility],” stated Suggs whose 14.5 career sacks (regular season) against the Steelers are the second-most he has against any opponent. “They have to know if they are not ready, then they are going to go out there and get their shirt wrinkled, as we would say back home.
“You do not want to get punched in the mouth. You are going to fight a kid that pretty much has the same identity as you. You better know your opponent; you better know you are in for a dogfight for four quarters.”
Toss out the records, toss out the current situations of the Ravens and the Steelers; it doesn’t matter, both teams go the extra mile in these battles.
Still, this battle should be particularly interesting given the fact that first place in the division is on the line.
While the game may be played in the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium this Sunday afternoon, these two teams would suit up against one another in a Walmart parking lot at midnight on a Tuesday. That’s a rivalry. That’s Ravens-Steelers.
As Ray used to say, buckle up your chinstraps.
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