Steelers Still Consider Ravens Top Rivals Over Division-Winning Bengals
The Baltimore Ravens have finished in third place of the AFC North division rankings for three consecutive years, while the Cincinnati Bengals have won the division crown two of the last three seasons.
So who do the Pittsburgh Steelers consider their top rival right now?
It's still the Ravens … but only by a hair.
"I can't call it – if I had to pick: Ravens," Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler at Organized Team Activities (OTAs) this week. "They got us last year. You want to get the win. That's more important [than the theatrics]."
The Steelers-Bengals "theatrics" made national headlines last year, from pre-game shoving matches to injury-inducing hits. Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was one of the main culprits in hurting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder), wide receiver Antonio Brown (concussion) and running back Le'Veon Bell (knee, torn MCL).
Remember that crazy AFC wild-card game and all of its late-game drama? Together, the teams racked up six fines for nearly $84,000. Even Steelers coaches were fined (Mike Munchak and Joey Porter) $10,000 each for scuffling with Bengals players.
Despite the drama, the Ravens dealt blows to the Steelers that continue to sting even more: losses.
Baltimore swept Pittsburgh in their two matchups last season and has won five of the past six games. Both teams have multiple Super Bowl wins since 2000* *and a strong overall postseason pedigree.
On the flipside, the Steelers beat the Bengals in two of their three meetings last year, including the 18-16 wild-card win. Cincinnati's last playoff victory came in the 1990 season, a whopping 26 years ago.
"I'd still say the Ravens," defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt said. "We've got to beat them. We beat Cincinnati. We have to beat the Ravens. It's been like that every time [with them]. That's not going to be a focal point. We're taking one game at a time, but especially with those two teams, we have to beat them in the division."
Tuitt added that even though the excitement has elevated with the Bengals recently, the Steelers and Ravens have also been playing heated football for a long time. It's the timing of physicality that makes the biggest difference between the two teams.
Fowler implies the Bengals have more "after-the-whistle physicality."
"With the Ravens, that's more in the trenches," Wheaton said. "With the Bengals, it's all over the field. Hopefully it doesn't get too rowdy [in 2016]."
It's really a sign of respect that the Steelers still see Baltimore as Public Enemy No. 1.
That said, the Ravens may be rethinking their biggest rival based on similar logic. After losing five straight games to the Bengals and not winning in Paul Brown Stadium since 2011, Baltimore wants nothing more than to put a screeching halt to that streak in 2016.
"Is the rivalry switching? I don't know," Jimmy Smith said in December. "I don't know, because I kind of hate the Bengals."
So, to recap, the Steelers see the Ravens as their biggest rival. The Ravens may see the Bengals as their biggest rival. And, assuming the Bengals use the same win-loss logic to determine their top enemy, then Cincy likely sees the Steelers as its biggest rival.
That's not at all confusing, right?
Steve Smith Sr. Makes Spoof Music Video With Ugly Rental Car
This gave me a chuckle this morning.
Apparently, receiver Steve Smith Sr. is a "gold member" of the rental car company, Hertz, who gave the Ravens wide receiver what he called "the worst colored [rental] car ever."
So Smith did what he does best, and made a fun situation out of it.
He took what, I guess, is supposed to be a gold-colored car and made a spoof music video. My favorite is at the end when his wife is driving (at a speed that can't be any higher than 2 miles per hour) while Smith and his kids are bumping their heads to music. That's when Smith's younger son dabs out of the back window.
Check out the must-see production: // <![CDATA[ Sqor.embed("sqor-embeddable-2195b855-44fb-41eb-9f2b-ff472742c507"); // ]]>
Vegas Favors Ravens To Win Only Six Games
Either Vegas gaming company CG Technologies is really good at its job, or Ravens fans are going to make lots of money this season.
The Ravens are currently favored to win only six games, which would make them a sub-.500 team for the second consecutive season. There's a lot more faith in the Steelers and Bengals, who are favored for 13 and 11 wins, respectively.
"So, here's how it will/might/probably won't play out," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Mark Selig.
CG Technologies sees Baltimore starting out well, winning its first two games against Buffalo and Cleveland, and the Week 3 matchup against Jacksonville is a pick 'em. Then things go downhill, as the Ravens are considered underdogs in eight of their next 12 games.
"The most surprising part is the Ravens are underdogs for three home games: Pittsburgh (-2.5), Cincinnati (-1.5) and Philadelphia (-3)," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "Baltimore is 48-16 at home under coach John Harbaugh, which is the third-best mark in the NFL since 2008."
Eugene Monroe Not Worried About NFL Future Over His Stance On Medical Marijuana
Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe has boldly advocated for the NFL to take marijuana off the banned substances list. It's a controversial topic that creates lots of waves, but Monroe isn't worried about that, or how it could affect his future in the league.
"I don't have any personal concerns about repercussions for speaking about medical cannabis," Monroe said on SportsCenter, per Hensley. "My health and wellness future as a father [and] as a friend is far more important.
" … Other players, particularly in the Ravens locker room, are very supportive of this. We're concerned for our health and wellness future. A lot of us are fathers with many children. We want to be there in full capacity for our kids and for our families when we are done playing the game. Introducing cannabis as a medical option that would be prescribed by certified doctors could make the game much safer."