In Pittsburgh, it’s called Ravens Week. In Baltimore, it’s called Steelers Week. They both mean the same thing: strap up.
No, we might not see another Ryan-Clark-on-Willis-McGahee hit—if we did it would result in a huge fine today—but the rivalry games between the Steelers and Ravens remain among the most highly competitive in the league year after year.
The fact that Pittsburgh’s four-game winning streak in the series merely makes the series regular season record between Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh 15-13 says a lot. Tomlin took over the Steelers in 2007, Harbaugh the Ravens in 2008. They’re still going at it.
John’s there and Mike’s there; it’s not changing”, Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin told reporters about the rivalry this week via transcript. “The cities are still there; it’s not changing. It is a great rivalry. It’s tough. Being involved in it, it is. Their games, they’re hard-hitting. I think both teams have a lot of respect for each other because it’s very similar. I don’t think because the guys are younger it’s going to change the rivalry, I think the rivalry is what it is. That’s what it’ll have. That’s how it’s going to be this week”.
The faces will change—players can’t play forever—but some things may remain consistent. For this particular rivalry, it’s been the presence of these two head coaches, and before them it was Bill Cowher for Pittsburgh and Brian Billick for Baltimore.
They’ve maintained the traditions and upheld the expectations year after year, passing that on to their players, who as they get older pass it on to the rookies and to the free agents. You have Myles Jack coming over from Jacksonville talking about how the AFC North is a bloodbath compared to the South, and he hasn’t even gotten a swing at the Ravens yet.
Every game might not be glamorous, but rarely are they uncompetitive or lacking drama, intrigue, and suspense. Even under the least ideal circumstances, Steelers fans and Ravens fans—and the guys in those locker rooms—want first and foremost to beat the other guys. It’s bragging rights for the year.
The Steelers and Ravens have spent most of the AFC North’s existence trading the crown, with the occasional appearance by the Cincinnati Bengals. Often enough, the one who loses the division enters as the wildcard. They’ve played each other in the postseason three times in the Tomlin-Harbaugh era, Tomlin winning twice.