The 18th year of the Ravens/Steelers rivalry is upon us. While it lacks the history of Redskins-Cowboys or Packers-Bears, this rivalry has quickly (relatively speaking) blossomed into one of the best in the NFL. Since the Ravens entered the league in 1996, six teams have won multiple Super Bowls, and these two are both on that prestigious list (the others being Green Bay, Denver, New England, and the New York Giants).
With both teams are struggling here in 2013, the level of national attention on this game isn’t what we’ve grown used to in recent years.
However, for Ravens and Steelers fans, these clashes remain easily the most important games on the schedule. The Purple and Black faithful will be invading Heinz Field Sunday at 4:25, wearing all the Super Bowl XLVII gear we can fit on our bodies, reminding those Yinzers who the champs are. Of course, the rag-twirlers will counter with “SIX,” even though four of those came before most of them were born (more on that at the bottom).
Let’s dive into the numbers, quotes, and connections, in this week’s Crab Bag brought to you by Jimmy’s Famous Seafood.
KNOW THY ENEMY
QUOTES OF THE WEEEK
“The best player on the Ravens this year is also my current pick for Defensive Player of the Year. One year removed from the Achilles injury and now the undisputed leader of the unit, Suggs is having as good a season as he’s ever had in his 10-year Baltimore career. That includes his 2011 Defensive Player of the Year season. Known as ‘Sizzle’ and nothing else in that Ravens locker room, Suggs has picked up the leadership role that [Ray] Lewis and [Ed] Reed left behind and has been a beast on the field. J.J. Watt has the blood-covered face and the headlines, and Justin Houston has all the sacks, but Suggs’ work in both the run and pass game has been second to none this season.” - Fox Sports’ Peter Schrager on OLB Terrell Suggs
“It’s almost surreal. All of a sudden, everything’s different. You go into this dark place. It’s like you’re in this globe, in a good way, and suddenly there’s nothing outside of that moment, outside of that stadium. It’s unique to these games, and yet, both teams are so comfortable in that place. It’s where we’re supposed to be; it’s where they’re supposed to be. It’s hard to describe.” – Head coach John Harbaugh on what it’s like playing in the Baltimore-Pittsburgh rivalry
“When you talk about a rivalry, you talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. The one thing you talk about is trash-talking, smash-mouth, hard-hitting football games. These guys are going out there, and they genuinely do not like each other. So, you know that these games are going to be action-packed from the start to the end.” - NFL Network’s Willie McGinest on the Ravens-Steelers rivalry
“Both teams essentially play street fights on the field. Legally and without weapons and all, but you know what I mean. I basically cringe most of the time watching them play because of how hardcore it is, especially when they’re playing one another. And they draft into it. They know that’s their identity and go over it.” – NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport on the Ravens and Steelers drafting to their style of play
“Our No. 1 goal is to win the AFC North – get to the playoffs – and Eugene can help us do that. With the changes we’ve made and the injuries we’re dealing with, we’re still in a good spot in the division. That’s fortunate. We need to improve, and I think we will, and then fight to make the playoffs. Then we’ll see what happens in January.” - GM & executive VP Ozzie Newsome on the season outlook after trading for LT Eugene Monroe
“We’re all chasing Ozzie.” - Giants GM Jerry Reese on Ozzie Newsome’s accomplishments
GETTING TO KNOW YOU ~ Q&A with Haloti Ngata
You’ve been a Raven for life. What do you like most about this organization?
“I really like the way we play. We’re a tough, physical, relentless team. We’re not the prettiest, but we get things done a lot of the time when we need it to get done.”
What does the Steelers rivalry mean to this team?
“It’s huge. I think the last couple of years that we’ve been playing, we’ve been teams that are very alike. Our defenses are dominant, and our offenses are usually putting enough points on the board. It’s a huge rivalry, and it’s great. I love playing against the Steelers, a team I really get up for, and I always want to play well against them.”
Do you have any favorite moments from past Steelers games?
“Anytime we win is my favorite moment.”
The Ravens have won their last three games at Heinz Field. How do you prepare for that tough environment?
“Our offense is definitely prepared for the noise there. Their fans do a great job of getting loud when it’s time. We just try to quiet them down with our defense by making plays and try to get off the field to let our offense score points.”
What makes Ben Roethlisberger so hard to take down?
“His size. When you’re about to hit him, you think you’re about to give him a good hit, but then he’s more fluid and slippery than you think. He bends in different ways, or you’ll hit him, and he just bounces off in different ways. He’s big and can use his weight to stay up. He’s great at playing backyard football and finding the open receiver and getting him the ball.”
What is your strategy for containing Roethlisberger?
“Once you get that open shot to get him down, make sure you have a solid wrap and try to get him down instead of trying to knock the ball out or trying to make the big hit. Just make sure you’re balanced and take him down when you have that shot.”
Which Raven is the… Strongest:
“Me (laughter), but Sam Koch is pretty athletic.”
Most likely to be a coach:
HEY, YOU LOOK FAMILIAR! ~ Key Connections
Ravens C A.Q. Shipley was originally selected by the Steelers in the seventh round (226th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft and spent his entire rookie season on the team’s practice squad.
Both Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau began their NFL coaching careers as special teams coaches for the Philadelphia Eagles – Harbaugh from 1998-2006 and LeBeau from 1973-75.
Steelers defensive assistant Jerry Olsavsky finished his NFL playing career as a LB with the Ravens in 1998. Steelers DBs coach Carnell Lake was a member of the Ravens in 2001, his final NFL season.
Ravens Northeast area scout Andy Weidl spent two years (1998-99) with the Steelers as a player personnel assistant.
Steelers WRs coach Richard Mann (1982-83) served in the same role with the Baltimore Colts before the franchise relocated to Indianapolis in 1984. Mann (1985) later was hired as the WRs/TE coach for the Cleveland Browns, where he tutored current Ravens GM and executive VP and Hall of Fame TE Ozzie Newsome (1978-90).
Ravens C Gino Gradkowski is the younger brother of Steelers QB Bruce Gradkowski.
Steelers LB Terence Garvin is a Baltimore native and graduate of Loyola Blakefield High School, where he was an All-State DB (2008).
LAUGH OF THE WEEK AT EXPENSE OF RAVENS’ OPPONENT
Oh man, where to begin…