The Baltimore Ravens hardly know anything but great to excellent play at the inside linebacker position. they started off as a franchise with Ray Lewis, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and shortly thereafter passed the baton to C.J. Mosley, who, for whatever has gone on in his career since leaving Baltimore, doesn’t account for the five great years they had there.
There was a one-year layover in between the transitions from each, but this year, the Ravens used their first-round pick on the man they believe to be their next great middle linebacker in Patrick Queen. He’s about to get his first taste of the Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry, and he’s more than ready for it.
“They’re a great team. Like all the other players, I’m just ready to go play”, he told reporters yesterday. “I’m ready to go get after them. I know about the rivalry, so it’s going to be a fun game. I can’t wait – they’ve got great, great, great players. Players who a lot of people look up to and stuff. So, it’s going to be fun to actually go against those guys now”.
So far through his first six games, Queen has already racked up 44 tackles, including four tackles for loss, with two sacks, five quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, two recoveries, one of which he returned for a 53-yard touchdown, and a pass defensed. Early returns on investment have been good.
Their other starting inside linebacker you will be more familiar with. That would be L.J. Fort, who spent several years with the Steelers, of course, but whom they were never comfortable handing over a meaningful role except as a seeming last resort. He departed in free agency last year, singing with the Eagles, but was released mid-season and joined Baltimore.
Fort, who rotates out heavily (he has played 44 percent of their defensive snaps), has 27 tackles on the season to date. He also has a forced fumble and, like Queen, two recoveries, one of which he has returned for a touchdown. It is the second defensive touchdown of his career, as he also recovered a fumble for a score in Pittsburgh in 2018.
Since he has been on both sides of the rivalry, I’m sure that Fort has been giving plenty of insight to Queen about what to expect, but he seems to have a handle on it already. “Hard-nosed football – that’s about it”, he said of his experiences with the Steelers-Ravens games growing up.
“That’s what you live for – a defensive game”, he added. “I know football, everybody wants to see high scoring games now. But at the end of the day, I like holding people to three points, no points, whatever it is. It’s a sign of dominance”.
The Steelers and Ravens have two of the best defenses in the league right now. They also have two of the best offenses. Both are widely regarded as being candidates for the best team in the NFL right now. Sunday’s game will help determine who has the more legitimate claim.