Steelers' Mike Mitchell: 'We're Coming For You, Steve Smith'
It's been seven weeks since the last installment of Ravens-Steelers.
That's seven weeks too long.
If you think it's been hard on fans to sit patiently for the long-awaited AFC North battle, check out who was on Steelers safety Mike Mitchell's mind after a non-Ravens game … 26 days ago.
"How long have the Steelers and Ravens been looking forward to their Christmas Day showdown?" asked ESPN's Bob Holtzman in a tweet Monday night.
"I interviewed Steelers safety Mike Mitchell on the field maybe 60 seconds after Pittsburgh beat Indianapolis and he looked into our camera and said, '[W]e're coming for you, Steve.' It was a message directed at Ravens WR Steve Smith. Keep in mind, this was on THANKSGIVING, and I hadn't asked a question about the Ravens."
Smith and Mitchell are new to the rivalry, but the former teammates epitomize what it's all about.
After the Ravens' 21-14 win over the Steelers in November, Smith said Mitchell isn't on his level, or even on this kids' level. It was Smith's first game back from an ankle injury and he caught four passes for 47 yards. His best play of the game was a 30-yard catch and run in which he shrugged off a Mitchell tackle with a stiff-arm. Smith's teammate, Mike Wallace, burned Mitchell on a 95-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Before that matchup, Mitchell posted an Instagram photo of him hitting Smith with the caption, "A lot of talk. Today's the day we find out! #LurkGang#IAmTheHunter #IAmTheHitman#5OR50."
Smith replied after that game with a social media message of his own.
Ah, yes. This is exactly the type of brazen commentary and raw emotion that epitomizes what TheMMQB.com's Peter King says is still the "best rivalry in football."
Making the already-emotional matchup more exhilarating is that it could become the division-decider.
Surprisingly, there have only been two previous meetings between the Ravens and Steelers when first place hung in the balance, according to ESPN. If the Steelers win Sunday, they clinch the division. If the Ravens win, they will fight for the AFC North crown in the season finale.
Not surprisingly, Baltimore is considered the underdog both in this game and in making the playoffs. ESPN's Football Power Index gives the Ravens a 27.9 percent chance to punch a playoff ticket.
With so much on the line, you can see why Ravens defensive leader Terrell Suggs tells his younger teammates that this rivalry is what defines careers.
In August, Suggs was interviewed by King, and even back then he was "seething" about the Steelers. King asked Suggs if it's hatred or respect that makes it such a big deal.
"Both," Suggs said. "You look at it like this, and I'm not comparing us to this, but just using it as an example. What would Muhammad Ali be without Joe Frazier? What would Michael Jordan be without the Pistons? Everybody has this foe that changes you! It's like I am a whole other person during Steeler Week."
Stanley Gets A Rematch Against Harrison
It was his first game back from a foot injury, and it wasn't pretty.
First-round left tackle Ronnie Stanley's first test after sitting out five weeks (including the bye) was against Steelers' pass-rushing monster James Harrison. It was Stanley's worst game of the season, according to Pro Football Focus, who gave him a negative-9.3 grade.
Harrison notched two sacks and one hurry on 18 pass-rush snaps, including a forced fumble.
Well, Stanley has gotten healthy and continues progressing as a rookie. This week, we'll get a better idea of what Stanley can do against the ageless wonder that is Harrison.
Harbaugh Likes That Wallace Wants More Involvement
After a 54-yard catch in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Mike Wallace reportedly waived off teammates coming to congratulate him and threw down his helmet.
What was the motivation behind his sideline display of emotion?
"I'm a baller and I want to get the ball," Wallace told The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "I'm emotional. That's the way I play. I just want to be involved, that's all. That's the way we play. That's the way Steve [Smith Sr.] plays. That's the way I play. That's the way Kamar [Aiken] plays. It is what it is."
On Monday, John Harbaugh was asked for his thoughts on Wallace wanting the ball more, and the head coach said he didn't see Wallace's sideline reaction, but the wide receiver's attitude is exactly what he wants from all his players.
"We want guys that want to compete," Harbaugh said in the video to the right. "That's what we're all about here. That's what we've always been about. We want hardnosed, tough guys that want to compete.
"If [Wallace] slammed his helmet down after catching a 60-yard pass to put us into the red zone, he's probably pretty excited about the play. If all of those receivers want the ball, I want them to have the ball. I want them to have the ball, and I want them to make plays. I want them to block, and I want them all to want to win and to compete. It's an emotional game, and you better have emotional guys that like to play it, because it's a hard game to play."
Five Things On Ravens' Christmas Wish List
You've got five days left to get your wish lists to Santa Claus.
If you need a little assistance, CSNMidAtlantic.com's Clifton Brown has five Ravenized ideas that would go a long way in helping Baltimore to the postseason.
I agree with every single one, Cliff.
1. Elite Joe Flacco
"Flacco has played more pedestrian than elite this year. That said, he showed flashes of his best self in Week 13 and 14, throwing for more than 300 yards in both games. If he can replicate that, it'll be a gift to the Ravens."
2. Healthy Jimmy Smith
"Baltimore's defense has been stellar, but they're vulnerable to giving up home run plays without Smith on the field."
3. More Rushing Plays
"Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg calls fewer run plays than the fired Marc Trestman, and that's not a good thing."
4. Fewer Nail-Biters
"Fans, players and coaches must be tired of these dramatic finishes. Three of the Ravens' eight wins have been by fewer than 7 points. And three of their six losses have come by fewer than 7 points, as well. Jeez! The holidays are stressful enough."
5. Breshad Perriman To Show Consistency
"When given the chance, Perriman can smoke opponents. … Baltimore could really use him as a more consistent contributor."