View Full Version : Harris: 'Armageddon' looms for Steelers, Ravens

01-10-2011, 11:02 PM
Harris: 'Armageddon' looms for Steelers, Ravens
By John Harris
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Linebacker Terrell Suggs compares the Steelers-Baltimore Ravens rivalry to a biblical battle between good and evil signaling the end of the world.

"This is Armageddon," Suggs said Monday on ESPN's First Take.

Suggs, who played valiantly in a losing effort against the Steelers two years ago in the AFC Championship Game despite a painful shoulder injury, also compared the rivalry to "World War III."

And here I was thinking that Saturday's divisional playoff game at Heinz Field will only signal the end of the season for the loser.

The origins of the Steelers-Ravens rivalry, which Steelers coach Mike Tomlin unabashedly calls the best in football, is generational. Players and coaches on both teams instinctively take sides and great issue with each other without most of them knowing why.

When in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, do as the Steelers and Ravens do.

"The coaches hate each other, the players hate each other," Steelers veteran receiver Hines Ward once said.

Ward has faced the Ravens 28 times, including the postseason -- more than any current Steeler.

The genesis of the rivalry likely began in 1998 when Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson joined the Ravens two years after playing his last game with the Steelers.

At that time, Ward and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis were the only current players on either team playing in the league. Ward was a rookie, and Lewis was in his third season.

Woodson begat Lewis, who begat Suggs, and a rivalry was born with some help from an unexpected source.

After leaving the Steelers, Woodson played two seasons with San Francisco. Any chance of Woodson returning to the Steelers after leaving the 49ers ended when director of football operations Tom Donohoe said "we're not the Salvation Army" in reference to the team possibly re-signing former Steelers such as Woodson, Kevin Greene and Ernie Mills.

When the Steelers drafted Deshea Townsend in 1998, he wore Woodson's No. 26.

Woodson signed that year with Baltimore, switched from cornerback to safety and played in a Pro Bowl with the Ravens. In the process, he taught what he leaned as a member of the Steelers to his new teammates.

"I saw this young talent and the stuff I learned in Pittsburgh. I got to give back a lot more in Baltimore, where they put me in the locker room in the middle of (linebackers) Peter Boulware, Ray Lewis and Jamie Sharper," said Woodson, who later chastised the Steelers' front office for not keeping players.

Woodson joined a Baltimore team that patterned itself after the Steelers. Led by new coach Brian Billick and defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, a former Steelers assistant, the Ravens featured a strong running attack and a powerful defense.

In 2000, Baltimore defeated the Steelers, 16-0, in the season opener. It was the Steelers' first shutout loss at home in over a decade.

After the game, outspoken Ravens tight end Shannon Sharpe said, "That's probably the worst I've seen a Steelers team look."

Later in the season, following a 9-6 Steelers win in Baltimore, coach Bill Cowher, fanning the flames of the budding rivalry even more, told reporters, "Can you guys please tell Shannon Sharpe that our problems here are fine." Cowher and Sharpe now work together on CBS.

The Ravens won a Super Bowl in 2000 in Woodson's third season in Baltimore -- the Super Bowl he failed to win with the Steelers.

In 2001, the Steelers lost the first game between the teams at Heinz Field, 13-10. It was a physical battle that featured Ward bloodying Woodson's nose with a hit that Woodson considered a cheap shot.

The Steelers won the rematch, 26-21, in Baltimore that year to capture the division title and advance to the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Adding insult to injury, the Steelers whipped Baltimore, 27-10, in the teams' first meeting in the postseason.

Bold words and physical exchanges aside, the Steelers have dominated the rivalry during the past 10 years, winning six division titles and two Super Bowls.

Just as they did two years ago, the Steelers and Ravens will meet for the third time in a season Saturday.

In 2008, the Steelers defeated the Ravens all three times, including the AFC title game, en route to winning Super Bowl XLIII.

The teams split the first two games this season. The Ravens won by three points at Heinz Field in October, with the Steelers winning by the same three-point margin in Baltimore two months later.

Saturday's winner not only advances to the conference title game, but will do so with the smug satisfaction that it occurred at the expense of their least favorite opponent.

What could be more gratifying and devastating at the same time?

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

Fire Arians
01-10-2011, 11:17 PM
good read, this match has bad blood written all over it, the way a true rivalry should

01-11-2011, 07:54 AM
Not really a rivalry if you ask me. They come close but we generally beat them. It's more based on Ravens bitterness and some Steeler respect for a team that can physically bring it.

01-11-2011, 07:54 AM
lets leave the "after the play" personal fouls to them, though. I'd really hate to see a 15-yarder called on us at an inopportune time.