A Ravens Win KO's Steelers

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A win this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers goes a long way towards the 8-6 Ravens' playoff charge.

But would that victory be even sweeter considering it would deflate the 7-7 Steelers' postseason dreams?

The discussion is interesting, but the Ravens aren't having it in their locker room.

"I haven't really thought about [knocking the Steelers out], but it would be nice, as long as we can do it," said safety Dawan Landry. "It's like bad blood. It reminds me of Georgia Tech/UGA. It reminds me of the college game. They're going to put their best shot on us, and we'll have to do the same thing. There's a lot riding on the game. With both teams having a lot riding on it, it's going to be a good game."

These two teams meet a minimum of twice a year in what is always a smash-mouth affair that leaves bodies battered and bruised. Last season, it was three, with the Ravens falling in the AFC Championship.

Both teams have typically boasted punishing defenses and strong rushing attacks. Even though both the Ravens and the Steelers throw the ball more this season than they typically have in the past, the same themes essentially hold true.

"We love to play each other, because we're the only two teams that play this style of football," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "That's why it is a rivalry, and that's why we get after each other. We can't really worry about their chances. We've got to take care of our stuff. Our No. 1 objective is win and we can get in. Everything else aside, we're just trying to continue our season and play in January."

According to Steelers receiver Hines Ward, the Ravens already ended the Steelers' playoff bid once this year.

In a Week 13 matchup, Pittsburgh came to M&T Bank Stadium and lost 20-17 in overtime.

Afterwards, Ward was downtrodden.

"The playoffs is pretty much over with," he said at the time. "Right now we're playing for pride, pride for wearing this uniform. There's going to be a lot of gut check for a lot of guys on this team."

That day may have been misleading, however. The Steelers were without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was held out with concussion-like symptoms, and safety Troy Polamalu (knee). Instead, little-used backup Dennis Dixon was under center and Tyrone Carter was in the secondary.

This time, Roethlisberger is definitely playing, while Polamalu's presence is unlikely, according to reports out of Pittsburgh.

No matter who is out there, the Ravens believe their opponent has something to prove.

"They don't seem vulnerable to me," said wideout Derrick Mason. "They seem like the same vaunted Pittsburgh defense. They've just had their share of miscues on the defensive side of the ball. Everybody goes through their highs and their lows, and they went through their lows as a defense. Taking Troy out is a big loss, but still you've got 10 other guys that have been playing in that same spot for a long time.

"Then you throw Tyrone Carter in, and it's not like he's a first-year player. This guy's been in the league 10 years and knows how to play. Granted, he's not a Troy, but he knows how to play. They're still out there, and they're playing hard. One guy changes it a little bit, but not what they do defensively as a team."

Besides, the Ravens can't underestimate any team, considering they control their own destiny. If the Ravens can close the season with wins against the Steelers and Oakland Raiders – and the division-leading Cincinnati Bengals take one of their final two games – the No. 5 seed is theirs.

Conversely, with a healthy Roethlisberger at the helm, the Steelers have risen from Ward's perceived ashes to get back into the playoff conversation as one of six AFC teams currently at .500. Dipping below that margin would be devastating.

"I think we're both playing for the same thing," Mason noted. "We've both got our backs against the wall, and we're fighting for our lives, our playoff lives, right now. We're both playing for the same goal. Obviously, we're in a little bit better seat than they are, but they have to win out, and we have to win out to even have an opportunity to go to the playoffs. We're both fighting for the same thing right now."

It is always a blockbuster fight, if not brutal. The Ravens would like to deliver the knockout punch – not as much to KO the Steelers' playoff ambitions, but more to advance their own agenda.

Still, while there is much respect between each faction, the heat is between these two factions is undeniable.

"It's going to be personal. You see each other twice a year," said linebacker Ray Lewis. "Whether you're friends or not, even when you were in the schoolyard, winning is winning. Beating somebody is beating somebody. A lot of the times, you'd still lose the game, but you'd still brag about how you would just beat somebody, or hit somebody, things like that.

"So, it's going to come down to that same thing again. To my young guys, the words I keep using are, 'Here we go again.' You can't do anything else but appreciate these type of moments."

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