Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images
The Steelers and Ravens renew their rivalry this Sunday in Week 8, and it is exactly what the NFL wants.
The 6-0 Steelers put their first place in the AFC, and the AFC North, on the line against the 5-1 Ravens team coming off their Week 7 bye week. If the Steelers win, it will give them a two game advantage in the division, while a loss would move them to second place and have them looking up at Lamar Jackson and company.
In other words, it is still early, but there is no doubt this is a huge game.
Ben Roethlisberger met with the media during his typical Wednesday availability, and he spoke at length about the Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore rivalry, and labeled it as “what the NFL wants”.
“I think it’s what football fans want, what the NFL wants,” said Roethlisberger.
What the NFL wants? There is no doubt rivalries like this are not just what they want, it is what the game needs.
When it comes to rivalries, the one factor almost everyone adds to the discussion is whether or not the recent history is competitive. This was brought up before the Week 6 game with the Cleveland Browns. While the media touted it as a fierce rivalry, the Steelers have dominated the Browns since they returned to the league.
That can’t be said about the Steelers and Ravens. Just check out the numbers…
The best rivalries are those where the two sides are actually competitive with each other and it doesn’t get much better than Steelers vs. Ravens. pic.twitter.com/uxnpRCw52v
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 28, 2020
As for Roethlisberger, he wasn’t able to participate in the rivalry last week, after his season ended in Week 2 at Heinz Field vs. the Seattle Seahawks. Believe it or not, Roethlisberger missed these rivalry games.
“I didn’t get to play in it last year. I missed this.” Roethlisberger admitted. “As much as this game hurts physically at the end of the day, you miss this rivalry because this is fun. It’s football in its purest form. It should be a good matchup. We will have our hands full.”
When asked to describe the rivalry, Roethlisberger painted a pretty accurate picture of what it has been like to play against the Ravens since 2004.
“It’s tough. It’s a physical one,” said Roethlisberger of the rivalry. “It can be nasty at times. I have always felt, as many times as my nose has been broken, I have had injuries, it’s been a close game. It’s always been football in its truest form. It’s never been dirty. It’s never been nasty. It’s just been hard-nosed football. This is one you always want your bye week to be after.”
There might be some, including the fans, who will debate whether the game has ever been dirty or nasty, but that might be Roethlisberger just toeing the company line.
The Steelers’ offense will have their hands full with the Baltimore defense this Sunday. The likes of Marlon Humphries, Patrick Queen, Calais Campbell and Justin Peters are a group who is fast, physical and dominant.
“This is a defense that brings guys from everywhere,” said Roethlisberger. “It’s going to be one of those games where we’re going to have to be able to keep everybody in at times. Just because you are keeping everybody in, it still doesn’t mean you have all day to throw it. The ball has to get out of your hand in a timely manner. It’s not an easy thing to do. Sometimes you have to get lucky. You have to have the right protection called, even after a blitz. Sometimes you can pick it up and get the ball out of your hands and it’s one-on-one on the outside with no help. We like those matchups too because we’ve got some slippery guys at receiver that can make guys miss. Every once in a while, you take that shot over the top knowing that they’re might not be a safety back there. There are some things you can exploit. The key is always to protect long enough to do that.
“They just (have) really good football players. Ball hawks. Guys who know how to play, can stop it. There are just a lot of challenges facing us this week in the pass game. Our guys are going to have to all be involved. We are going to have to try the best matchup and see how it goes from there. I am going to have to be smart, make good decisions, and our guys are going to have to run good routes in order to have a chance.”
Throughout it all, Roethlisberger shows a general understanding of how the Steelers’ offense can aide the defense as they have to handle the enigma which is Lamar Jackson. Like they used to plan for Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, those dynamic playmakers can’t impact the game if they are on the sidelines.
Last week in Tennessee the Steelers’ offense dominated time of possession, and limited the Titans’ ability to make big plays, it ultimately resulted in the 27-24 victory for the Steelers. A similar challenge awaits the offense in Week 8.
“When you have an offense as good as Baltimore, a player as dynamic as him [Lamar Jackson], a lot of guys on offense, you have to try and keep them on the sideline,” said Roethlisberger. “We were able to do that early in the game last week so we’ll have to do everything we can. This is a good football team. One of the best in the league.”
The rivalry between the Steelers and Ravens has been renewed, and it is a good thing not just for the NFL, but for both franchises. Football is better when these two teams are a the top of their respective games. You can hear more about this on the latest “Let’s Ride” podcast in the player below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes on this huge AFC North game this Sunday in Week 8.