When the Ravens and Steelers met back in Week 7, fans on both sides were lamenting the fact that it didn’t feel like a typical Ravens/Steelers week. Pittsburgh was 1-4. Baltimore was 3-3. In addition, it looked like the Thanksgiving night game between the two squads would be an absolute clunker, with at least one of the teams having nothing to play for.
Well, that’s not the case. More due to the fact that the AFC around them is completely mediocre and watered down than due to either the Ravens or Steelers really having earned it, sure, but the reality is this: the winner of tonight’s matchup between the 5-6 Ravens and the 5-6 Steelers will have an inside track to the AFC’s final playoff spot.
This game is, in effect, a playoff game. The loser’s playoff shots are all but cooked like birds all over tables in America today. The winner’s are, somehow, still alive.
A Ravens/Steelers game, in prime time, that features a playoff atmosphere.
That’s something we can all be thankful for.
Now we all just hope that, like they did two years ago, our boys give us a Turkey Day to remember fondly.
Let’s take a look at the numbers, stats, and quotes, in this week’s Crab Bag brought to you by Jimmy’s Famous Seafood.
KNOW THY ENEMY
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“Sure, you can measure this bi-annual crunchfest with a scoreboard, but it’s always the same. Steelers-Ravens is a three-pointer. The Jumbotron is about as useful as that old stick you use to figure out whether you’re looking at a standard brown trout … So, no, you measure these things with a seismograph. Or, if you’re persnickety, you measure by body count.” - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gene Collier on the Ravens-Steelers rivalry
“As much as people want to call it a hate, it’s a respect. They’ve won championships; we’ve won championships. When you talk about the rivalry, it’s like a dual respect where we want to win multiple championships. In order for us to win multiple championships, there’s always the road through Pittsburgh; that’s just the way it’s been in the AFC North. There’s a lot of pride involved in this one. You play other teams regularly each season, but when you face them two times a year – or sometimes three with Pittsburgh – it’s like facing your brother, where you can’t back out of the fight. You know you’re going to get into a fight, and you can’t back out.” - RB Ray Rice on the Ravens-Steelers rivalry
“I respect him. I respect the way he plays the game. He plays it hard, and he plays it physical, but he also respects the players. If he hits you and hits you hard, he’ll love it, but he wants to make sure you’re OK because he wants you to keep playing because he wants to keep hitting you. He doesn’t have a dirty attitude like some of these young guys coming into the league at linebacker and [other] defensive players have. He has a respect for the players and the game, and I respect that.” - Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger on OLB Terrell Suggs
“If you’re going to be successful, you have to develop your relationships with your top players, and your leaders and veterans especially. You have to have the ability to share and partner with your top players in the process of becoming a great team. If you don’t have that, there’s no way you can be successful.” Head coach John Harbaugh on building leadership, chemistry and rapport with the goal to succeed
“For a 3-4 defensive lineman, in general, you’re not going to have outstanding numbers. It’s a selfless position, but it doesn’t mean it’s not important. When you see the efficiency with which Haloti plays, not only performing at his job, but making things easier for the guys behind him and next to him, he makes a difference. He’s really stout. His football I.Q. and his intelligence puts guys in position to make plays. He’s a great football player.” - DE Chris Canty on NT Haloti Ngata
“I think the biggest thing any corner needs is to be smart. There are a lot of talented defensive backs out there that can run like the wind, and they might even be big, but can’t play very well. Guys who can really take that athletic ability and put it to use in the right way, that’s what I like about Corey. Corey is a smart, smart football player.” - Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees on CB Corey Graham
“Justin is a guy who’s got it going on and off the field because his character is very good. That plays a huge part, because as an NFL athlete, it really comes down to trust. They trust him so much they didn’t bring in any competition [during training camp]. Either you have the ability or you don’t, and can you replicate it time and time again? Justin has harnessed that. You can have the talent and the passion, but Justin has the mental strength. He proved that to me in the playoffs. As a kicker, you’re after the respect of your teammates. It’s a privilege to be in this position, and Justin understands that.” - Ravens Ring of Honor inductee Matt Stover on K Justin Tucker
DEFENSE HITTING THEIR STRIDE
GETTING TO KNOW YOU ~ Q&A with Ray Rice
What word comes to mind when you hear the following?
What is your favorite tradition at Thanksgiving?
“When I was in high school, we’d have a game called the ‘Turkey Bowl.’ It was the Catholic school versus the public school. I went to the public school. It was always a big deal. I remember watching my cousins when I was growing up. Then, I eventually ended up playing in the game.”
How important is it for you to spend time with your family during the holidays?
“It really is what it’s all about. You come to work, you love your teammates, but when you put it all in perspective, you’re truly playing for your family at home that’s supporting you throughout the year. To get time with them is always a good deal.”
What are some of your initial memories about the Pittsburgh rivalry from your rookie year in 2008?
“The hits. That was before there were a lot of fines on big hits. I remember guys getting whacked coming across the middle of the field. Those hits were brutal.”
If you could play another position in the league, what would you want to play?
“Safety. I’d want to hit people. It would bring me back to my high school days. I want to come downhill; I want to blitz. I don’t want to play the middle of the field. I want to be in the box, and I want to hit people. I told [our coaches] to put me in on defense here. Put me in at nickel safety. I want to be in the box, where I can come downhill and tackle. I want to be like a Bob Sanders.”
To whom do you compare your running style?
“I don’t want to be compared to anybody, but I respect a lot of running backs. I respect Barry Sanders. I loved the way Emmitt Smith played. Walter Payton was also a favorite. I’m an ‘old-school’ guy; I respect history. Anybody who’s a running back, I’m a big fan of. I want to see all running backs do well, because they talk about us being a dying breed. Running backs have shaped the game. Quarterbacks are the face of the NFL, but running backs have shaped it. You can’t have a team without a back. It doesn’t matter how you slice it – you need them. We’re not a dying breed; we just need to evolve with the change. We’ve got to catch the ball now; you can’t just be a runner anymore.”
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