What is the most physical, bone-shattering, smack-talking, dirt-eating rivalry in all of professional football? That designation goes to the decade long rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. The two division rivals have been at one another’s throats since the rivalry began back in 1996. Though the casts have changed significantly over the years, this rivalry is still as intense, hard hitting, blood and mud-splattered as ever.
Hate is a pretty strong word; but when the black and gold clashes with the purple and white, all bets are off. From 1996 to 2011, both the Ravens and the Steelers have reached the playoffs on a fairly regular basis and both brought home the vaunted Lombardi Trophy twice. On Thursday, this dynamic football duo will renew is rivalry for the 40th time in the regular season. This year, several battle-scarred veterans will lead the way for both squads in this heated rivalry, of which the Steelers lead in the series by a tally of 23 to 16.
With the team probably suffering from the lingering effects of the Ray Rice saga and the loss to the Bengals last week, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Joe Flacco will try to rally the troops as the Black and Yellow marches into Baltimore. Newly acquired veteran WR Steve Smith, who started off his career in B-More with a seven catch, 118 yards and a touchdown performance, will test the young Steelers' secondary.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be trying to capitalize on a "too close for comfort" win over the upstart Cleveland Browns, one in which the defense surrendered 24 of the Browns' 27 points in the second half. Most fans know that the current Baltimore Ravens franchise was originally the Cleveland Browns before owner Art Modell moved the franchise in 1996, and that energy from that old Browns versus Steelers rivalry is alive and well whenever Baltimore and Pittsburgh meet. The Steelers, led by veterans Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu and Antonio Brown, are hoping their young defense, featuring Shamarko Thomas and Ryan Shazier, continue their quick development and maturation process.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is on the hot seat as his Steelers squad hasn’t visited the playoffs since 2011. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens lost their Week One matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals as Joe Flacco oscillated between his alter egos "Joe Cool" and "Joe Stool" on a frustratingly frequent basis. The run game was atrocious as Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett ran for a combined 87 yards on 17 carries with one fumble.
Also, the Ravens’ defense looked rather pedestrian as much-maligned but talented Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw for 301 yards in putting a stop to a four-game losing streak versus Baltimore. Though Big Ben did struggle in the second half versus the Browns, he’s still considered a better quarterback than Dalton. Neither secondary appears capable of stopping the deep ball threat and neither defensive front showed the ability to pressure the passer on a consistent basis. Running back Le’Veon Bell and second year receiver Markus Wheaton were bright spots for the Steelers and it’s possible that Baltimore won’t have an answer for either.
However, the Steelers’ front four got gashed by Brown’s running back Terrance West. Is T. West that good or is Pittsburgh’s run defense that bad? Though this is only Week Two, this game will set the tone for both teams for the remaining 14 games on their respective schedules. Baltimore will try to break through the Ray Rice fog that has engulfed their team while the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to show the rest of the National Football League that they are back to their dominant ways of years past.
Can't wait for Thursday night!