Familiar Faces Missing From Rivalry


Ray Lewis. Hines Ward. Ben Roethlisberger. Troy Polamalu.

In many ways, they are the players who have defined the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, making it one of the greatest in all of sports.

But this Sunday at Heinz Field the two teams will face off with likely none of those players on the field – the first time that's ever happened. 

"It's going to suck not seeing the tradition of players that have played in this game," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "Both sides are going to be missing pieces that makes this rivalry everything that it is. It's going to be different but the game must go on, the show must go on."

Lewis is on the injured reserve, designated for return list with a torn triceps muscle. Roethlisberger is out with shoulder and rib injuries. Polamalu is doubtful because of a calf strain. And Ward retired.

Those players are responsible for some of the greatest – and most infamous – moments of the heated rivalry. Images of Lewis' bone-crushing hits, Ward's controversial crackback blocks, Polamalu roaming the middle of the field and Roethlisberger's bloody nose have come to define the rivalry.

On Sunday, the biggest impact any of those players will make on the game will likely be from the sidelines.  

"It's going to have a little bit of a different feel," Suggs said.

While the absence of each team's stars is a big transition, both sides scoffed at the idea that the significance of the game will be at all diminished.

"The names and faces inside the helmets are going to change; that's the nature of professional football," Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin said. "But, the spirit within the men, the history of this game and the fact that both teams remain competitive will always make this rivalry what it is."

"It'll never diminish as long as the colors are the colors," Suggs added.

Both teams have been cordial through the media in the buildup to the game, but that doesn't mean that the feelings toward the other have changed, or that that the animosity has eased.

"It's going to be a battle no matter what," safety Bernard Pollard said. "These two teams hate each other."

When the Ravens and Steelers have faced off in the past, trash talk and chippiness have been part of the routine.

Don't expect that to change this weekend, even if Ward isn't out on the field.

"There's going to be a lot of trash talking," Suggs said. "Please believe that."

Sunday's game is a new chapter in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, and while some of the game's iconic figures may not be part of this episode, the atmosphere will still be just as hostile as in years past.

"Once that whistle blows and the bullets become live, I don't expect anything less than traditional Ravens/Steelers," Suggs aid. "It's going to be that – it's going to be what it is."

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