PITTSBURGH — The past of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens’ rivalry is a storied one, despite the fact that the Ravens have only been around since the turn of the century.
Between the two teams, they have laid claim to 15 of the 19 division titles since the AFC North was formed in 2002 and have won four Super Bowls since 2000.
Six Ravens players and four Steelers players that have played in that era are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with more surely to come.
“There’ve been some significant games,” Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said on Sunday. “It’s about the men that have played in these games, the standard that they hold the current players to. Guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and others, guys on this side like Alan Faneca, Troy Polamalu, those gold jacket types that have had an opportunity to watch for 15 years that really kind of set a standard in the series that we all have to play to and uphold, and we are appreciative of that.”
The rivalry is just as relevant in present-day as ever, with the Steelers’ dramatic 20-19 win on Sunday bringing Pittsburgh to within a game and a half of first-place Baltimore with five games to play, including a rematch in Maryland.
But Sunday’s Steelers game was also a chance for the future of the rivalry to get acquainted. The Steelers started four rookies and four other players participating in their first Steelers-Ravens game.
Chris Wormley, the Raven-turned-Steeler defensive lineman that’s as familiar with the intricacies of the rivalry as anyone, said it’s big that the Pittsburgh newcomers got off to a strong first step.
“It sets the tone, especially for the rookies,” Wormley said. “Dan Moore, who’s probably going to be here for the next 10 years or more, going up against their rookie Broderick Washington, who’s had a hell of a season already. Just being introduced that way. Big Muth doing what the does and just setting the tone for the next decade for those guys. It’s going to be exciting”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who played in his 26th regular season game against Baltimore, said these are special games and moments to remember and imparted some wisdom to young running back Najee Harris.
“I told him he’s going to enjoy this rivalry for a long time and it’s his opportunity now to set his mark, the physicality and what it means,” Roethlisberger said.
As with most things in the NFL, the young Steelers’ early success against Baltimore won’t mean much if they can’t sustain it, but given the must-win nature of the game for Pittsburgh, Tomlin was pleased with the result.
“Hopefully, we made those Steeler alumni proud with our efforts tonight.”