Back in 2008, the Ravens fought their way to the AFC Championship Game before falling to the Steelers in heartbreaking fashion, with Troy Polamalu’s fourth quarter interception return for a touchdown serving as the decisive blow.
You probably remember that one.
Last year, Pittsburgh again knocked the Ravens out of the postseason, this time when Baltimore saw a 21-7 halftime lead quickly turn into a 31-24 loss when the Steelers rattled off 17 straight points coming out of halftime.
You certainly remember that one.
Terrell Suggs remembers both playoff loses, as well. And the Ravens’ Pro Bowl outside linebacker is getting tired of seeing his season end at the hands of the Steelers.
“They spoiled our Super Bowl dreams for the last two out of three years,” Suggs said yesterday. “We have to switch that, you know? It’s sickening it ends our season every year and we lose to our division rival. I’m sick of it. I’m disgusted. I’m tired of having a sick feeling in my stomach for a whole year. Game One. Let’s go.”
Those two postseason defeats have clearly stung Suggs, who is one of the most competitive, fiery personalities in the Ravens’ locker room. Normally jovial and light-hearted when talking with reporters leading up to a game, Suggs spoke quietly and with a sense of focus yesterday, his eyes already geared toward Sunday’s matchup with Pittsburgh.
While Suggs will enter that game with a chip on his shoulder stemming from the way last season ended, many of his teammates say they will not. Instead, they’ll focus on the fact that this game, while early on in the season, could carry playoff implications.
“We usually play them at the end of the year, and it usually comes down to some playoff contention, where you’ve got to beat them to get in or whatever,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “But this year, it’s just happening in the beginning. They all carry the same weight; a loss is a loss, doesn’t matter who it is. But for this team, we know they’re going to be in the hunt, we know they’re going to be in the running, and to get a win against them would be huge.”
In each of the last three years, the Ravens and Steelers have finished the regular season with no more than one game separating them in the standings. Last season, the teams ended the year tied atop the AFC North, but Pittsburgh earned the division title via a tiebreaker.
The intensity of the rivalry is a huge part of what makes Sunday’s game so exciting, but the importance it will play in determining the balance of power in the AFC North provides added significance.
Some might prefer this game to come later on in the season, when the playoff picture has started to take shape and the implications could be ratcheted up even higher, if that’s possible. Suggs clearly likes having this game kick off the 2011 campaign so he can try and put last year’s playoff loss behind him.
Ray Lewis says he doesn’t mind having the Ravens-Steelers showdown happen in Week 1, either.
“10 years ago when we won our Super Bowl, we started with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I remember beating them 16-0,” Lewis said. “So, it’s never too (early) to get it on. What it defines right now is not what your season is going to be like or not. What it defines is - it’s an AFC team, it’s in your division, deal with what you’ve got to deal with right now.”