New Ravens pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue grew up in Bowie, Md., about 30 minutes from M&T Bank Stadium.
He wasn't rooting for the Ravens, however. He was a Steelers fan.
Now, his first game as a Baltimore Raven after coming back home will be against Pittsburgh in a colossal midseason matchup of AFC North leaders.
"It's quite ironic," Ngakoue said. "The Ravens are a team that I definitely used to watch a lot growing up. Those guys had crazy battles as I remember being a kid watching them on TV. It was really low-scoring games, like 10-3 games. It was just a defensive battle."
Considering how good both defenses are again this year, next Sunday's game could have a similar vibe.
Entering Week 7's games, the Ravens had allowed the fewest points per game in the NFL (17.3) and the Steelers allowed the third fewest (18.8). The Ravens were tied for the second-most forced turnovers (11), while the Steelers were tied for seventh (nine). The Steelers led the league in sacks (24), and the Ravens were tied for second (22).
Ngakoue adds more firepower to a Ravens pass rush that has feasted the past couple weeks. The Steelers have a dangerous edge rusher tandem in T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. Now the Ravens have their own in Ngakoue and Matthew Judon.
"I already knew this was definitely a top defense. I've been part of a top defense before in 2017, and I know what it takes to uphold that standard," Ngakoue said.
"I'm definitely excited about the Steelers game. I had a lot of success, personally, versus that team. And I'm pretty sure as a team, the whole defense will have a lot of success, not this weekend, but the next weekend coming up. I'm definitely, definitely super excited to be able to play my first game – my first Ravens and Steelers game."
As a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ngakoue registered a sack, forced fumble and two quarterback hits against the Steelers in a 2017 divisional playoff game. In a 2018 rematch, Ngakoue had a sack and three quarterback hits.
Now the Ravens are hoping he can bring some of that same tormenting to M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 1.