The Baltimore Ravens (3-4) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3). Two teams that are from gritty towns. Towns of people that take their hard hats and lunch pails to work everyday. These two teams represent these two towns perfectly.
Former Steelers cornerback, Deshea Townsend, remembered how ugly some of those battles against the Ravens were.
“The games were always so heated because they had that special defense,” Townsend said. “You wanted to make sure you played well. The dislike was always there. You didn’t have to worry about that.”
James Farrior, a former Steelers linebacker, followed up his former teammate’s sentiments about playing against the Ravens.
“Those games, they were brutal,” Farrior said. “They always meant something. The game was always important. Not that they’re all not important, but that was the one you always wanted to win.”
The games were defensive battles. Nasty. Brutal. Tough. Those were all words to describe the Ravens/Steelers rivalry.
“That was one of the most intense rivalries you could think of,” said Townsend, now a secondary coach with the Tennessee Titans. “You knew going in you had to outplay their defense and if you gave up more than 17 points you were going to lose.”
The Ravens, who have dominated the rivalry in the past couple of seasons, come into this home game as confident underdogs. They haven’t had the best of luck this season, starting out the season 3-0, only to come crashing back down to earth with four consecutive losses.
“It’s just what we do,” Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams said. “We feel like we are built to beat the Steelers.”
This battle is also for the lead in the AFC North, a division that has been battered and beaten all season.
“This is not an ideal situation to go into it, especially against a team like this. It’s not going to make or break our season, but we obviously have to have this win,” Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said Wednesday. “It’s more of a desperate situation in my mind for our team to make sure we get a win.”
Ravens outside linebacker, Terrell Suggs, would also tell the young guys on his team that gravity of this situation.
“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,” Suggs said. “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.”
This game is so big that two stars for each respective team will return. Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, will return early from knee surgery. He was expected to miss 4-6 weeks. This is according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo:
Ben Roethlisberger is active and will start for the Steelers against the Ravens today at M&T Bank Stadium.
Roethlisberger, who had surgery Oct. 17 to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, was listed as questionable Friday after being limited in practice all week. Cornerback William Gay, who has a foot injury and was also listed as questionable, will play as well.
Roethlisberger was injured in a game at Miami three weeks ago. He missed the Steelers’ 27-16 loss to New England two weeks ago and split the practice reps with backup Landry Jones in practice the past two weeks.
The other star is Ravens wide receiver, Steve Smith Sr., who has missed every game since the October 16th matchup against the Washington Redskins after spraining his ankle.
Which rivalry has lost its luster? Certainly not this one.