Ravens/Steelers: It's Intense And … Fun
Like a lot of you, I had trouble getting over last Sunday's 27-24 loss at Cincinnati.
It hurt in so many ways. … A second defeat to the Bengals that will certainly impact the battle for the AFC North title; the way we lost with the offensive pass interference called on Steve Smith Sr.; the injury to Jimmy Smith …
Sorry, don't mean to dwell. BUT, here's what I think on the penalty called on Steve that eliminated the spectacular 80-yard, game-winning touchdown play with 32 seconds left. *Yes, you can make a legitimate call on Smith for extending his arm. And, yes, you could have called pass interference on the Bengals' safety for grabbing at Steve. How about not making a call at all? Sometimes there needs to be a common sense approach to these great competitions. Sometimes the right thing to do is to let the athletes play and have them decide the outcome. (Remember Jimmy Smith and Michael Crabtree in the end zone at the end of Super Bowl XLVII?) *
OK, that's out of my system. Kind of.
While still moping a bit on Wednesday afternoon, the windows in my office started reverberating from the song thundering out of the giant speakers on our practice field at the Under Armour Performance Center.
2:10 p.m., the Ravens were practicing, and the Cincy funk was lifted.
"Renegade" by Styx.
That's the song and accompanying video the Steelers use to fire up the crowd when they need a big defensive stand. We were playing it at our practice.
Take a look at this:
On the road, that's the best crowd motivation I've ever seen. The towels wave, the bass is enhanced, and the fans literally rock the stadium. Have to admit, it's pretty cool. First time they played it against us, I was thinking about getting out of the press box because it was shaking enough to split from the structure.
And, we, the Ravens, love the song. Our veteran players know the words – Terrell Suggs is very good at singing the beginning – and our young players will know the song by Sunday. I used to watch the sea of yellow towels swinging during the song, now my eyes go to our bench. You can see some of our players and coaches rocking to the song, mouthing the words (the Steelers show the video during a timeout.)
Now might be a good time to mention that the Ravens have won three of our last four regular-season games at Heinz Field. 2010: 17-14 Baltimore victory; 2011: 23-20 Baltimore victory; 2012: 13-10 Baltimore victory; 2013: 19-16 Pittsburgh win. You remember last year's loss at Heinz. Joe Flacco directed us on a 16-play, 73-yard touchdown drive that tied the score at 16 with under two minutes to play.
We then let them return a kick to the 37-yard line, and eventually, Shaun Suisham kicked a 42-yard game winner as time expired. Damn. I don't want to say we were angry after that loss, but we did a few days later release a player who was covering that kickoff.
Did I mention these Ravens/Steelers battles are usually very tight? Incredibly, 10 of the last 13 games played in this NFL rivalry have been decided by three points or less. We've won seven of those and look at this: we've averaged 300 yards of offense in this baker's dozen, and the Steelers have averaged 301.9. In the last six at Heinz, both teams have won three. Each team has scored 109 points in those contests. Amazing!
Here's what Suggs said about Sunday night's game:
"To be a villain? At Heinz Field? I love it. I love it because they put so much energy into hating you. You obviously are doing something, so it's kind of flattering. I take it as kind of respect."
Steve Smith Sr. is the newest veteran Raven to this rivalry. He already has joined the club:
"It is a rivalry game that tempers get heated and this starts from the very first kickoff. The two games that we're going to play have been nationally televised so whether the scores indicate anything of the season, it has nothing to do with when the Steelers and the Ravens play. I'm getting a full on dose of that and it just makes my skin crawl to be a part of that. To be able to live that opportunity in the NFL, it's pretty dang cool to be honest."
Joe Flacco enjoys playing at Heinz Field:
"It's a lot of fun. I mean, it really is. It's awesome to play in front of your home crowd and get all that excitement and really feel that. But there are times where it's almost just as good to go in there and play so good that you can silence people that really don't want to be silenced and aren't very good at holding their words. So, it is a lot of fun over there."
John Harbaugh knows all about playing the Steelers at the confluence of the three rivers:
"They have good players. They're well coached and tough as nails. They have a lot of pride over there and we have respect for them. We know what they're about. We're very comfortable in this rivalry. We're very comfortable in that stadium. We've been in great games there…We'll be there and we'll be on time."
What does it say about this rivalry that both games in 2014 are nationally televised? CBS-TV asked for the Ravens/Steelers for the grand opening of their Thursday night package. They got it, and the ratings for that 26-6 Baltimore victory are the highest for this new series. NBC-TV asked for this game and got it, too. It will be the most-watched TV show in America next week.
Pittsburgh is hot. They've won two in a row, including last Sunday's impressive 51-34 win over the Colts. Big Ben is scorching – the strong-like-bull quarterback set all-time Steelers records with 40 completions, 522 passing yards and six touchdowns in the Indy game. Wow! (Hey, Roethlisberger is very good. Maybe great and likely a Hall of Famer when his career ends. The Ravens have also beaten Ben in four of the last five starts he played against us – when he has thrown five touchdowns and five interceptions.)
They're retiring Joe Greene's No. 75 jersey at Heinz on Sunday night. (This is about the fifth time the Steelers have had some sort of historical celebration when we visit. Last year, it was a Hines Ward salute. What are we? Their Homecoming game?) Big Ben will be rifling the ball, and "Renegade" will be played as those towels create a lively sea of yellow. We'll be there on time for kickoff. Can't wait.
Let's beat the Steelers.
Talk with you next week,