— After the
The Ravens accomplished that mission in 2011, sweeping the season series and also winning the division for the first time since 2006 by stomping the Steelers in the season opener then breaking their hearts when
But as the 6-3 Steelers prepare to welcome back the 7-2 Ravens to Heinz Field on Sunday night, with first place in the AFC North yet again on the line, their players are saying almost to a man that there is no score to settle. The company line is that the Ravens — as formidable as they are and as fierce as this rivalry is — are just another team in their path toward another
"It's a football game — like the other 15 I play every year. It's a football game," Steelers safety
After a 2-3 start, the Steelers have won four straight games — among that gauntlet of gray faces were the
The Ravens have their own issues heading into Sunday night, but they have won 11 straight AFC North games dating back to their 13-10 loss to the Steelers on Dec. 5, 2010. Going 6-0 in a division typically dominated by the Steelers — five AFC North titles and two Lombardi Trophies in the past decade — was the difference in the division last year, as both teams finished 12-4.
Now, for the first time since 2006, the Ravens aren't hunting the Steelers. They are the hunted.
"That means nothing," Ravens inside linebacker
Forget kicking. A year ago, the Ravens gave the Steelers a blunt-object-type beatdown at M&T Bank Stadium. The lowest blow came when they faked an extra point to score a two-point conversion in the third quarter even though an extra point would have given them a nice, round 21-point lead. The margin of victory in the 35-7 win was the widest in the history of the rivalry.
Eight weeks later, Ravens quarterback
"Getting blown out or losing close, it doesn't really matter," Steelers nose tackle
But despite getting swept, there is no score to settle, Steelers linebacker
"Nobody wants to lose to their rivals," he said. "Especially when they talk as much as they do."
Yet, so far, this week — they call it "Ravens week" in Pittsburgh — has been a far cry from years past, when the two bruising teams from blue-collar, Rust Belt cities would lob verbal grenades at each other from 180 miles away before they settled their differences out on the football field.
The rivalry has lost a little juice with former Steelers wide receiver
While the Steelers acknowledge that the Ravens, as Woodley put it, "whooped" them last year, they still exude quiet confidence after beating them in years past, particularly when it mattered most.
"You can't fix last year," Clark said. "If we win two games this year, it's not going to turn back the hands of time and erase those two. Them winning two games last year didn't erase the fact that we beat them in the playoffs the year before [or] that we beat them in the
But as often as they are reciting Tomlin's non-confrontational mantra about their opponents' faces whenever a microphone is shoved in their own, Steelers players know deep down that the nameless gray faces they will butt heads with Sunday night at Heinz Field will be wearing black and purple helmets.
That should elicit emotion, and the bad memories, the bitter taste and the hard feelings will come rushing back.