Baltimore Raven Linebacker Terrell Suggs says it is. To quote him, "There is nothing to hype about this game. This is definitely the biggest rivalry in football. It's a championship week. It's Baltimore against Pittsburgh." Now a few other teams may take exception with that proclamation. The Redskins fans would definitely argue their rivalry with the Cowboys is the biggest. However, it's not even close. And those two teams are both so bad this year that no one even cares. The teams of the NFC North would definitely have strong arguments in their favor. All four of those teams hate each other. Cleveland would try to argue that their rivalry with Pittsburgh is bigger. But the Steelers rivalry with Baltimore is the old Cleveland rivalry. The real one. The bigger one.
When the Browns left Cleveland for Baltimore, it was a sad day for both Cleveland and Pittsburgh. We thought it was the end of an era. One of the oldest rivalries in the NFL was dead. It would never be the same. Looking back, we were wrong. Very wrong.
At this point in time, I have to agree with Suggs. This has grown to be the biggest rivalry in the NFL. Both teams have been on top of their games for years. Both teams hate each other. Both teams play smash mouth football. When they collide, it's always a hard hitting, fun to watch game. Something that the current NFL management hates. I have heard football fans all week talk about the upcoming Sunday night game. Everyone wants to see this one. You know a rivalry is great when other team's fans want to watch it. This rivalry is a true rivalry. It is not one sided or fake. Both fan bases live for this game.
Living in the Washington D.C. area, I have got to watch this Ravens fan base develop. And I can definitely tell you this, they hate the Steelers. They hate Steeler Nation. They hate Black and Gold. They hate Pittsburgh. They hate James Harrison. And they really hate Hines Ward. He is the most hated man in Baltimore. A fact which makes me laugh. I mean it! Come on! How can you hate that smile?
OK, so he put a few hard hits on your guys. He's just playing football. Get over it. It's smash mouth football, remember?
Actually the Ravens fan base hase gotten more obnoxious about this rivalry every year. They think the Steelers are the dirtiest organization in football, which is ridiculous. They are starting to remind me of Eagles fans. They will spit venomous hatred at the very sight of a Steelers jersey. The animosity seems to grow and grow. Probably because of the beat downs the Steelers have put on the Ravens at just the right times each season. I had a good friend move to Baltimore about 4 or 5 years ago. He had always been a die hard Redskins fan and had never expressed a bad opinion about the Steelers, until the move. Now he hates the Steelers with a passion. I guess hate really is contagious. I think the teams have a mutual respect for each other, but they also hate each other.
This game Sunday night is looking like a great match up. Both teams are 8-3. The winner
should take the division. The Steelers are ranked 5th defensively, the Ravens 8th. The Ravens are ranked 14th offensively, the Steelers 19th. The Steelers pass defense is ranked an abhorrent 22nd, the Ravens is 7th. The Steelers rush defense is 1st, the Ravens 11th. The ground game is where the Steelers may really prevail. Rashard Mendenhall is 7th in the league in rushing yards, Ray Rice is 11th. But Mr. Rice is going up against the best rush defense in the league.
Having won in Pittsburgh earlier this year, the Ravens have a chance to sweep the Steelers this year. Something they haven't done since 2006. The Ravens also have an 8 game home win streak going into this game. But that is about to come to an end. Because the Steelers have something this time that they didn't the last time, Big Ben. He may have a sprained foot. But the two time Super Bowl winning quarterback is back. And that makes a huge difference.
So this game looks great on paper, but that means nothing. It would be a great game anyway. It's the greatest rivalry in the NFL. Right?