While it might not necessarily always be the best game on the schedule year in and year out, it’s still appointment viewing when the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens get together, as one of the great rivalry in sports today.
As we talked about recently, the Steelers are 15-14 in their last 29 games against the Ravens, with Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh set to play their 30th game against one another as head coaches, the third-most between head coaches in NFL history (they will tie Curly Lambeau and Steve Owen for the second-most later this season at 31 meetings).
It’s no wonder that there remains a profound amount of respect within the rivalry, no matter how tough it’s gotten. Both the Steelers and the Ravens have had chippy affairs against the Ohio teams on and off in recent years, but it’s rare that you see tempers flare in that way against these two teams—and it’s because of that respect level.
Both of the Ravens’ coordinators, for example, talked this week about how they enjoy playing the Steelers—in Pittsburgh. “That’s no backhanded slap. I just love that setting. The people in Baltimore and the people in Pittsburgh love football”, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale told reporters yesterday.
“When the ball is kicked off, we don’t like each other, but there’s a common respect that we have for the coaches and the players and everything else”, he added. “You don’t see anything cheap or anything else out there. It’s just good football to watch, and it’s physical football, it’s old-school football”.
Meanwhile, Greg Roman’s offense has the playlist going and Renegade is blaring through the speakers during practice. Most of that roster is familiar with the song and what it means inside of Heinz Field, but it’s a first for a guy like Odafe Oweh, a rookie. It’s the song the Steelers’ stadium crew plays when the defense needs a key stop late in the game.
“I think it’s pretty neat what Coach Harbs does. I think it’s pretty cool. It kind of brings everything to focus”, he said of having his players experience the Styx hit. “It’s going to be a loud, boisterous environment. Communication is going to be at a premium this week for the offense, and the louder it can get out here … That song kind of brings everything right to focus for everybody that’s been there and knows what that feels like, because it’s definitely a feeling”.
As far as the season goes, the Ravens have had the better of it, actually currently in first place in both the division and the conference, at 8-3. They could pretty much finish of the Steelers’ hopes for the 2021 season by taking them down on Sunday night, dropping them to 5-6-1.
From Pittsburgh’s perspective, this is, of course, a must-win game. Every game from this point forward is a must-win game until it’s not. They simply cannot afford to lose right now and retain any playoff hopes, and even that may not be enough.