As the first Ravens-Steelers week of 2013 arrives, it’s hard not to notice a diminished buzz.
The Ravens are 3-3 and one game behind the Browns for first place in the AFC North, while the Steelers are 1-4 and in last place. However, Pittsburgh is coming off its first win following its first 0-4 start since 1968.
Several of the primary players in this rivalry are gone, so will it be more than a normal division game? Will the animosity and hatred toward one another still exist?
“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask me at 4:25 (Sunday) because the cast of characters, it is different,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said Wednesday. “There is no (Hines Ward) and he played a major part in this game. There’s no (James Harrison). We don’t have (Ray Lewis) on our side, (Ed Reed) on our side, (Bernard Pollard) on our side. Definitely, the look of this movie is a little bit different than we’ve seen it before.
“But like I said, it’s Ravens-Steelers, Heinz Field, 4:25. Once you get into it, it’s going to feel like Ravens-Steelers.”
Defensive lineman Art Jones argues that the rivalry has the same excitement even without Reed, Lewis, Ward, Harrison and others.
“Absolutely, absolutely. It’s definitely the same excitement,” Jones said. “It’s Pittsburgh. It’s a big, physical team. They’ve got a great quarterback and good guys around that quarterback, and we’re excited for the challenge that’s at hand. You can’t look at their record and define that football team. They’re actually a good team watching on film.”
Coach John Harbaugh didn’t want to go in-depth on his feelings about what Steelers week means, saying he’s “on record with that.” But he did provide one nugget on the Ravens’ most hated rival.
“We respect them tremendously,” Harbaugh said. “We always have and I’m sure we will continue to do that because they’re a tremendous organization and they’ve always been a very good football team, and we respect the way they play. ...
“We’re more concerned about our situation right now. That’s what we need to be concerned with. It’s a division game, so it counts for probably a game and a half.”
Like his coach, quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t talk the game up this time around, perhaps adding to the feeling that it might not feel the same to the players with the personnel changing so much.
“It’s still a division game and it’s still anybody’s division,” Flacco said. “It’s Week 7 and it’s a division game. You’ve got to take care of business in the division to give yourself a good chance at the end of the year to win it.”
Jones, however, expressed strong feelings about the matchup between the purple-and-black and black-and-gold.
“I love it,” he said. “They don’t like us. We’re not crazy about them either. But at the end of the day, we respect each other and we know what we’re going to get. It’s going to be an all-out fight, all-out brawl and we’ll be there to play on Sunday.”