Ravens-Steelers, different faces, same intensity

Ravens-Steelers, different faces, same intensity
October 17, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Harbaugh: Pittsburgh, Ravens is 'the greatest rivalry' in NFL


Exactly what is the Ravens-Steelers rivalry these days?

It’s still intense, but it’s different. It has changed a lot, even from last season. Many familiar names have moved on and won’t be playing Sunday at Hines Field. No Ray Lewis and Ed Reed for the Ravens, no James Harrison and Mike Wallace for the Steelers.

“Definitely, the look of this movie is a little bit different than what we’ve seen before,” said Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs. “But like I said, it’s Ravens-Steelers, Heinz Field, at 4:25 p.m. And once you get into it, it’s going to feel like the Ravens-Steelers.”

Meanwhile, both teams are going through major issues. The Steelers (1-4) didn’t win their first game until Sunday, and are in danger of becoming irrelevant in the AFC North. The Ravens (3-3) are .500 with a feeble ground attack, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. The Steelers aren’t much better, averaging 3.1 yards per carry.

The Ravens and Steelers with two of the worst rushing attacks in the NFL? Go figure.

In some ways, the state of both teams adds more edge to Sunday’s game. Only one team from the AFC North may make the playoffs this season, and the Ravens view their five remaining games against division rivals as critical.

“It’s still a division game, and it’s still anybody’s division,’’ said quarterback Joe Flacco. “You take care of business in the division, and you give yourself a good chance at the end of the year.”

A number of key Ravens will be getting their first taste of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, like left tackle Eugene Monroe, defensive lineman Chris Canty, linebackers Daryl Smith and Elvis Dumervil, and safety Matt Elam.

“From a distance, it seemed pretty intense,” Dumervil said. It’s going to be good to be a part of it.”

Game-planning for Dumervil and other new Ravens gives Steelers coach Mike Tomlin something new to be uptight about this week.

“I really haven’t sat down and thought about comparing it to what it’s been in the past,” Tomlin said. “It’s a waste of time as I sit here today. It’s about preparing for it in its present state, with the components that are playing in its present state. They are very impressive.

“I don’t think records are as important in this game, from an intensity standpoint. If nothing else, I think it heightens it. There’s a certain sense of urgency based on the position that the teams is in.”

Each of the last three Ravens-Steelers has been decided by a three-point margin. So while some of the players in the rivalry have changed, Suggs expects the intensity at Heinz Field to feel the same.

“It’s what a football atmosphere should be,” Suggs said. “You’re playing in a stadium against a team that has so much tradition. The heated animosity between the two teams, the rivalry and the tradition and the past of the two teams. You’ve got to love all that.”