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Old 09-29-2010, 08:14 AM   #1
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Default Steelers, Ravens renew pleasantries

Steelers, Ravens renew pleasantries
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times

Wednesday September 29, 2010 12:01 AM

PITTSBURGH — Nasty rivalries have long been part of the NFL. But right now, there’s none nastier than Steelers vs. Ravens.

So says Mike Tomlin.

Now that he’s in his fourth year as coach of the Steelers, Tomlin has been part of enough of these AFC North wars to make such a claim.

Tomlin appreciates other intense rivalries such Dallas vs. Washington or Chicago vs. Green Bay. Still, in the last few seasons, there’s nothing like Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore.

It conjures up memories of the brutal feud the Steelers had with the Raiders in the 1970s.

“It's the best rivalry in the National Football League," Tomlin said. "I've witnessed seven or eight of them. There are always fireworks. “It’s always significant. It’s football the way it’s supposed to be played.”

The Steelers (3-0) and Ravens (2-1) renew their rivalry Sunday in the marquee game of the NFL’s Week 4 schedule.

Even though they’ve only been playing each other since 1996, it didn’t take long for the two teams to develop a dislike for each other.

Maybe the bitterness developed because the Ravens entered the NFL after the late Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. After all, the Steelers and Browns once used to be bitter rivals.

Maybe the bitterness developed because the Ravens, for much of their existence, played a style of football similar to that of the Steelers, particularly on defense.

Maybe the rivalry developed because of the great Ray Lewis, a trash-talking linebacker who was the first player picked by the Ravens in the ’96 draft.

Among the most memorable moments in the rivalry include Lewis and Steelers linebacker Joey Porter nearly coming to blows during pre-game warm-ups on Sept. 7, 2003 and linebacker Terrell Suggs saying the Ravens had a bounty on Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward prior to the game on Sept. 29, 2008.Years ago when Bill Cowher coached the Steelers and Brian Billick the Ravens, here’s how Ward summed up the rivalry: “The coaches hate each other. The players hate each other … they don’t like us, and we don’t like them ... there’s no need to hide it. They know it and we know it.”

So far, Tomlin is 5-2 against Baltimore.

The first time he was part of the rivalry, Tomlin watched as the Steelers crushed the Ravens 38-7 on a Monday night. But since then, all the games have been close, including two in overtime.

The Steelers beat the Ravens 23-14 in the 2008 AFC Championship Game, but it was only 16-14 until safety Troy Polamalu returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

“They desire to play ball the way we desire to play ball,” Tomlin said. “I think that’s what makes this match-up special. We have a great deal of respect for this outfit. They bring the best out of us. We love playing against them.

“It’s Steelers versus Ravens. It’s humbling to be part of. It’s exciting to be part of it. Hopefully, we’ll prepare level-headed and play level-headed. It’s an emotional game.”
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