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Rookies Brace For First Taste Of Ravens-Steelers


Steve Smith Sr. had played in 183 NFL games before getting his first experience of the Ravens-Steelers game last season.

He quickly learned there was something different about the fierce AFC North rivalry.

"It was the sorest I've ever been in a long time," Smith said when thinking back to that game.

Now Baltimore's rookies will get their first taste of a Pittsburgh-Baltimore showdown four games into the professional careers, and the newcomers are heeding the advice of their elders going into Thursday's primetime showdown at Heinz Field.

"They've been telling me it's a different type of game," rookie defensive tackle Carl Davis said. "Just be ready. Brace up and get ready to play hard, our best game physically and mentally."

Members of the rookie class grew up watching some of the great meetings between the two franchises over the last several years. Since 2000, before the entire rookie class was over than 10 years old, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have combined to win four Super Bowls.

They are perennial playoff teams, and their meetings are almost always nationally televised. 

"It's one of the best rivalries in sports," tight end Maxx Williams said.

This week's meeting will once again air on national TV, which will also be the first primetime game for the rookies. A night game at Heinz Field is among the best atmospheres in the NFL, and it's also one of the toughest places to win.

"I've been hearing a lot of good things about it and how exciting it is, especially getting to play in their atmosphere," Davis said. "I was aware of it, but not as much as I am now and realizing how big it is. It definitely is magnified now that I'm here. A lot of the guys have talked about how fun it is and how big of a stage it is."

"I hear it's going to be an amazing atmosphere," running back Buck Allen added. "It's going to be the best game of the year. To have it on primetime, on Thursday, it can't get any better."

Making the rookies' debut even more intriguing is that Baltimore's newest class figures to play a significant role.

Tight ends Williams and Nick Boyle could both start because of the calf injury to Crockett Gillmore. Davis started last week and has taken considerable snaps along the defensive rotation.  Running back Buck Allen and wide receiver Darren Waller have both played in the first three games, and could see some more opportunities on offense.

The Ravens need their newcomers playing at a high level and unfazed by the moment to deal the Steelers a loss in their stadium.  

"You have to prepare the same way," Williams said. "You can't go in like, 'Oh, it's Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh!' Every game is loud on the road. It's the NFL. Everyone is a great team. Really, I prepare the same. You've got to play your best and play sound, technique football."

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