As Terrell Suggs prepares to join the Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor presented by Meritage Jewelers, his longtime nemesis Ben Roethlisberger wishes him well, and with much respect.
Suggs will be honored at halftime of Sunday's Ravens-Lions at M&T Bank Stadium, watching his name join the Ring of Honor with legends like such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Jonathan Ogden.
During his 16 seasons with the Ravens, Suggs was beloved for his irrepressible spirit and irreverent sense of humor, finishing as the franchise's all-time leader in sacks (132.5) and forced fumbles (37). The former NFL Defensive Player of the Year was a seven-time Pro Bowler who had a Hall of Fame worthy career and helped the Ravens win their second Super Bowl following the 2012 season.
However, no rivalry defined Suggs' career like the one had had with the Steelers and Roethlisberger.
"Tell Suggs I said congratulations," said Roethlisberger, the Steelers' retired quarterback whose rivalry with Suggs helped define their careers and the Ravens-Steelers rivalry.
"I loved playing against him because of the competitors we both are, the battles that we would have, the mutual respect that we had for each other. And I absolutely hated it because he was either intercepting a pass, knocking passes down, sacking me – something that just made my day miserable.
"When we were going to play Baltimore, I had to know where he was. I had to try and mentally beat him and that was hard. People talk about his physicality and what kind of physical freak he was. But he was a smart football player. You could outsmart a lot of guys, but not him. When I had to go up against him, I had to stress my brain. Only he can answer if I raised his game, but I know he always raised mine. He was a special player."
529: Terrell Suggs on Ring of Honor Induction, Steelers Hatred, Being the Villain, Greatest Achievements
Ravens legend Terrell Suggs talks about his emotions going into the Ring of Honor, what he's most proud of in his career, his rivalry with Ben Roethlisberger and much more.
The careers of Suggs and Roethlisberger were closely intertwined – Suggs drafted in 2003 and Roethlisberger in 2004. Their teams met twice every season, and sometimes a third time in the playoffs. Every year, Suggs knew he'd have to get past the Steelers.
"You never want to lose to the Steelers," Suggs said on "The Lounge" podcast. "Especially if we lost to them early in the season. You can't get swept. That's blasphemy. This game is the game that made me the player. This is the most special game in the NFL, Ravens and Steelers. Especially in those days. You had hard-hitting. You had superstars on both sides, primarily defensive guys. That's why the rivalry was what it was.
"Besides M&T Bank, Heinz Field was like my favorite place to play. I loved being the bad guy there. I loved seeing them leave early after whipping their ass. That's why you lined up to play football, for games like that."
Suggs had many signature moments against the Steelers, like his "Thigh Master" interception against Roethlisberger in 2015, when Suggs secured the ball between his thighs to help seal a Ravens' win in Pittsburgh. Nobody ever sacked Roethlisberger more than Suggs – 17 times.
In 2014, before a Ravens-Steelers matchup, Suggs made his famous pre-game entrance through a tunnel wearing a Gladiator mask, encouraged to do so by teammate Haloti Ngata, who is also in the Ring of Honor. When Suggs emerged from the tunnel wearing his mask, Ravens fans went crazy.
It was a moment that encapsulated Suggs' unique qualities as an inspirational leader and prankster, and the Ravens responded with a 26-6 victory.
"Haloti came up with the Gladiator helmet," Suggs said. "I wasn't going to do it. He was like, 'Nah Sizz, we need a boost.' I just decided at the last minute, alright I'm going to do the Gladiator thing. Ravens-Steelers, that's usually when I came up with something. That game brings out the best and the worst in you. I became Terrell Suggs because I had to play the Steelers twice a year."
Roethlisberger said playing against Suggs and the Ravens was unlike any other battle, pushing his body to its limits.
"When I played Baltimore, I knew it was going to hurt," Roethlisberger said. "You were going to get pounded and beat up and you were going to hurt for weeks. It was (Ed) Reed, Suggs, (Ray) Lewis, Ngata, (Bart) Scott, (Chris) McAllister. That was a crazy team. You had to go up against those guys, and they were coming to get you.
"As a quarterback you don't get to hit, you just get hit. The only way to get them back was to win, to score touchdowns. I wanted to earn their respect by being tough, by never giving up, never quitting. Ngata smacked me in the face and broke my nose, but I didn't miss a play. I wasn't going to come out of that game. That's what that rivalry meant to me. Suggs and I during the game, we'd give each other a little dap. There wasn't much trash talk. When it was over, win or lose, you left everything out there. I'm telling you, I miss it, but my body doesn't."
Suggs gave his props to Roethlisberger, saying that competing against him helped bring out his best.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ben Roethlisberger," Suggs said. "I don't have nothing bad to say about the guy. He broke my heart a lot of times, but I probably broke his sometimes, too. I loved playing against the guy. I love where it took me mentally."
Suggs said Sunday's ceremony will be emotional for him, as he hears the crowd and shares his special moment with family, friends and many former teammates. Rising to big occasions is a Suggs specialty, but he expects Sunday to feel surreal.
Suggs hasn't missed watching a Ravens game since his retirement following the 2019 season. He chose not to have his ceremony on a day when the Ravens played the Steelers because other times he attended that game as a fan, the Ravens lost. He didn't want to be a jinx.
"I never imagined this," Suggs said. "I don't know how I'm going to feel. But I know one thing – we better win."
Roethlisberger said he hadn't spoken to Suggs since they last faced each other, but that he expects to see him one day as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where the two rivals will one day wear gold jackets.
"There's no doubt he's a Hall of Famer, first ballot in my opinion," Roethlisberger said. "I don't see how he's not. When you talk about who deserves to get in, ask the question, 'Were you one of the best in the generation that you played? If you ask that question about Suggs, it's a no-brainer for anybody who played against him. He's special."