The Pittsburgh Steelers vs the Baltimore Ravens. For at least a five-year period, probably closer to ten, it was football’s best rivalry. And maybe it still is. But it isn’t what it once was and even Ben Roethlisberger admitted as such. In the first such contest since Roethlisberger retired, he admits it didn’t have the same feel it once did.
“This time was definitely different,” he said on his latest episode of Footballhin. “To see the stands. I’m not used to seeing for a Baltimore game, semi, it felt like it was not half, but it didn’t feel typical.”
Roethlisberger refrained from using the word “empty” but that’s the message here. Steelers/Ravens used to be primetime television, often in that timeslot, and yesterday it was only shown locally in the 1 PM/EST timeslot with CBS’ non-A squad. No Nantz, no Romo. And most of the country was watching something else. Usually, you don’t have to squint to see the Steelers/Ravens coverage map.
But the big players during the height of those games have come and gone. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs on the Ravens. Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison on the Steelers. Both franchises have turned to new quarterbacks, Baltimore cashing in big with Lamar Jackson while Pittsburgh is finding out what they have with Kenny Pickett.
“Today, it just felt a little different,” Roethlisberger said.
Both teams have rolled in a new faces who weren’t around for the “old” rivalry. Most of the oldest players on the Ravens are relatively new names – Desean Jackson, Justin Houston, and Jason Pierre-Paul. On the Steelers’ side, Cameron Heyward is one of the few Steelers who was part of those glory days. Much of the rest of the roster has been added over the last 4-5 seasons.
While the intensity of the rivalry may have changed, its outcomes have not. Pittsburgh/Baltimore remain the closest games in football. Over the last five meetings dating back to 2020, no game has been decided by more than one-possession. During that span, the Steelers, despite having won four of those five games, have only outscored the Ravens 97-86, an average of 2.2 points per game. Yesterday, the Ravens gained the edge by two points.
While Steelers/Ravens may not ever reach the peak it did in the late 2000s/early 2010s, those who played it – and those who witnessed it – know how special it was. They are plays and moments that will be shown again to the next generation, those not even alive to see those games live, and they will tell the story of football’s past and what the best of football looked like.