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Ravens Could Deliver Knockout Punch to Steelers


The importance of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers was engrained into Orlando Brown Jr. when he was a child.

Brown has followed in the footsteps of his late father, Orlando Brown Sr., who played six seasons with the Ravens at offensive tackle. When it was Ravens-Steelers week, Brown remembers his father becoming less jovial around the house.

"Growing up, I recognized the difference right away," Brown said. "My dad was always real serious when it was Pittsburgh week. It was real important to him. I caught onto the rivalry at an early age. We didn't have black and yellow in my house."

Sunday's Ravens-Steelers matchup will have an unusual twist, with the Ravens (13-2) firmly entrenched as the AFC's No. 1 seed and planning to rest at least five starters – Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram II, Marshal Yanda, Earl Thomas III and Brandon Williams.

However, to say the game will lack intensity would be a mistake. It's still Ravens-Steelers, with Pittsburgh (8-7) fighting for a playoff spot on the final weekend of the regular season. The Steelers' chances of making the playoffs are slim if they lose Sunday, but they can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over Baltimore, coupled with Tennessee Titans loss to the Houston Texans.

The Ravens want to win 14 games for the first time in franchise history, and if that 14th victory happens to keep Pittsburgh from making the playoffs, there will be no tears shed in the Ravens' locker room.

"It's not that we care so much about knocking them out," Brown said. "It's that we care about winning. The animosity comes from the rivalry, not their situation."

Baltimore can sweep the Steelers for the first time since 2015, and the Ravens' 26-23 overtime victory against Pittsburgh in Week 5 was a turning point in the season. It was beginning of Baltimore's 11-game winning streak, as inside linebackers Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort both played well after being signed as free agents earlier in the week.

Having not lost a game in over two months, the Ravens don't want to be reminded what losing feels like, especially against Pittsburgh.

"It's the Pittsburgh Steelers," defensive tackle Michael Pierce said, when asked if the Ravens might overlook this game. "They're fighting for a shot in the playoffs. We have history with those guys. So, no. If anybody tells you otherwise, we should have a talk."

With starters scheduled to rest, players on the 53-man roster who don't always get a chance to play could see plenty of snaps on Sunday. Ravens fullback Patrick Ricard said the starters who don't play will be cheering hard for backups who have been itching to play.

"We've got plenty of guys who have been working their butts off all year, and they haven't gotten on the field as much as they'd like to," Ricard said. "You know they're looking forward to this game.

"I look forward to playing the Steelers anytime, because of how rich the tradition is between the two franchises. You always know it's going to be a hard-fought game. On top of that, this is like a playoff game for them, so you know they'll be coming in here ready for us. It's going to be a fun atmosphere in front of our fans."

The Steelers have a history of playing well in Week 17, having won 11 straight regular-season finales under Head Coach Mike Tomlin. The Ravens are expecting Pittsburgh to play one of its better games, but that's what the Ravens always expect when they face the Steelers.

"I have the utmost respect for Mike [Tomlin] and the entire organization," Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. "We respect each other, but we don't like each other. That doesn't matter if it's Week 1 or Week 17.

"I told the defense today, this is going to be a 'test your manhood' game. They're going to run the ball, try to run the ball 50 times. It's a great rivalry. And like I said before, it's a rivalry out of respect. That's the thing that's most enjoyable about it."

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