Think about this: The Steelers played both games against Baltimore last year with a backup quarterback in Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch and didn’t miss a beat. In fact, they went 1-1 without Ben Roethlisberger.
Sure, guys like Hines Ward and Ray Lewis aren’t lacing up the cleats or putting the pads on anytime soon, but this rivalry won’t die just because the faces and personnel are different from years past.
One of the main reasons as to why this rivalry will always generate extra enthusiasm, and primetime starts for the games, is the relationship between the two cities.
As much as the Baltimore and Pittsburgh fans would hate to admit it, they are like big and little brothers of one another, a carbon copy. Two franchises that don’t rely on breaking the bank in free agency, but would rather build from the draft and develop undrafted free agents from within to create diamonds in the rough. Also, both cities feature blue-collar workers, where their respective teams can somewhat hinge on how good or bad their livelihood is the following week.
In years past, comparing them on the field would go something like this: Run the football well, play great defense, solid special teams, win the field position battle and minimize turnovers. For the most part, those things haven’t changed, but both teams have struggled with the ground game thus far.
Pittsburgh has used a cornucopia of starting running backs and Baltimore has used it’s two-headed monster of Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, but neither has really been able to get it going like they did last year. Seeing these two teams near the bottom of the league in total rushing and yards-per-carry is absurd, but you are what the statistics say you are.
Regardless what the numbers may suggest, and as much as I want to believe both of these teams will try to air it out as that is the struggling area of these defenses, I tend to regress to the mean that both the Ravens and Steelers will remember who they are and who they always will be and try to establish the power running game Sunday afternoon.
The reason why I bring up intensity? The battle in the trenches sometimes isn’t just about who is bigger, faster, stronger and smarter. Sometimes, it’s not about calling the proper scheme against a 3-4 defense. What it has come down to for these respective lineman on both sides of the football is that in the trenches, the will to want it more has left more to be desired and is partially why these teams aren’t excelling in what could have been called an area of expertise prior to 2013.
Still, this is going to be an ugly, rough and tough football game where the game clock and field position battle will be the ultimate difference makers. I’m thinking Baltimore sneaks out of the Steel City with a 16-13 win, so expect a lot of hard-hitting defense in this one.