The names, the faces, the grit, the physicality, the hatred, the respect – they all define the rivalry between the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Remember the hits?
Ray Lewis on Jerome Bettis. Ryan Clark on Willis McGahee. Haloti Ngata on Rashard Mendenhall. Ray Lewis on Mendenhall. Jarret Johnson on Hines Ward. And then perhaps the biggest shot of all – Bart Scott on Ben Roethlisberger.
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It was as if these two teams didn’t just take the football field for a brutal faceoff. It was more like they assumed their respective positions on a battlefield. The physicality was so thick that even you, as a fan, felt it. And boy did Sunday Night Football in America embrace it.
Unfortunately, the rivalry has lost its luster. Most, if not all of those unforgettable, thunderous hits would be deemed illegal in today’s NFL. And that’s our loss. The league prefers high scoring games and an excess of penalties intended to promote player safety.
Let’s all just admit it, the NFL is morphing into arena football.
We have our memories of this rivalry that was once the best in all of sport. We can go back and watch some of the highlights. We can remember how it felt. We were there.
But to my dismay and yours, the rivalry will never be the same.
And for that we can thank the new NFL.