Steelers, Ravens See It Smash-Mouth

2e5b63e0c0ca489bab641d00fcbb4678.jpg


When the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Arizona Cardinals Sunday in Super Bowl XLIII, they bring a physical, smash-mouth style of football that seems to be a rarity in today's NFL.

But, that type of play is common in Baltimore.

By frequently pummeling opponents into submission, something the Ravens took pride in during their run to the AFC Championship, the Steelers offer a stark contradiction to many of the high-flying offenses across the league.

In fact, many Steelers players think their frequent battles with the Ravens have helped harden their squad.

The two AFC North rivals met three times this season. All three may have been Pittsburgh victories, but they definitely came at a cost.

"I think the Ravens have that same mindset that you're not running the ball on their defense," said Pittsburgh defensive tackle Chris Hoke. "They'll shut you down, just like we do, and then get after them with blitz packages. That's why it's so much fun to play the Ravens, because it's such a physical, intense game. That's football."

One only has to look at the conference title game to understand Hoke's assertion, as the big hits were as much of a story as the outcome itself.

Ravens safety Daren Stonesustained a concussion on the opening kickoff.

Cornerback Corey Ivyhad to be helped off the field after falling prey to a devastating open-field block.

Defensive tackle Trevor Prycewas briefly knocked out of the game in the first quarter.

And that was just a listing of Baltimore's injuries that were publicly viewed.

Of course, the Ravens have dealt their share of blows, most notable when linebacker Ray Lewis ended rookie Rashard Mendenhall's season by breaking his shoulder on an inside run in Week 4.

Even though Ravens and Steelers football sounds brutal, neither team would have it any other way. They take pride in being bullies.

"The team that is the most physical in games is usually the team that wins," said Steelers safety Tyrone Carter. "It's about being able to out-physical teams and smashing them in the mouth. You have to wear teams out. Most teams want to be finesse.

"A prime example is the Indianapolis Colts. They're a finesse team. They're not about hitting you up front and pounding the ball. They want to move the chains by looking for the big plays and spreading you out a little bit, where you can't put eight or nine guys in the box."

In each town, that mentality is a tradition that has carried on for years.

The Ravens point to stalwarts like Lewis and former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan – who is now the New York Jets' head coach – for carrying the torch of physicality.

The Steelers have guys like wideout Hines Ward and linebacker James Farrior to ingrain that mentality in their young draft picks.

"We build our team in the draft, so guys are raised in that system and come in with that mentality," defensive tackle Casey Hampton said. "Like our cornerbacks, they know there ain't no arm tackling around here. They know you have to be ready to hit. You have to make your guys accountable. I think on some other teams, they let that slide."

Two weeks ago, the NFL's top-ranked defense out-punched the second-best unit when Pittsburgh took the AFC crown with a 23-14 victory over the Ravens.

And noticing how far the two most stifling teams in the league went just goes to show that the classic brand of play can still succeed.

"I don't see it any other way," linebacker LaMarr Woodley confidently said. "It's an aggressive game. It's either you hit somebody or you're the one getting hit. I want to be the person hitting somebody."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising