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Steelers Games Took Multiple Years off Ex-Ravens Fullback’s Career

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens games took two or three years off a former Ravens fullback’s career, he said.

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Two Steelers helmets at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 18, 2022. (Mitchell Northam / Steelers Now)
Two Steelers helmets at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 18, 2022. (Mitchell Northam / Steelers Now)

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens rivalry is one of the most physical in the NFL, and players from each side often endure injuries or at least bruises from its hyper-physicality. But it was at another level in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and some players lost years of their careers due to the games.

Former Ravens fullback Lorenzo Neal believes he could have played another two or three years after joining the Ravens after a storied career with the San Diego Chargers. However, he believes that three games in 2009 took off those years.

“I was in Baltimore the year of the [’08/09] AFC Championship Game. We lose to the Steelers, probably could’ve won that game. We lost to them three times that year. That was the year that pretty much retired me because it was just Le’Ron McClain, who played fullback, that I was blocking for, and Ray Rice. That year took at least two years off my career. I think I would’ve played another two or three years if I didn’t go to Baltimore,” Neal said on the Bleav in Chargers Podcast. 

Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin Baltimore Ravens Head coach John Harbaugh

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, left, talks with Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin following an NFL football game, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024 in Baltimore. The Steelers won 17-10. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

During that period, Neal and others on both teams handed out and took significant punishment on both sides of the football. For example, Ben Roethlisberger consistently left those games with some ailment for the next few weeks. Haloti Ngata breaking his nose might be the most iconic injury that he suffered.

Guys like Willis McGahee, Ryan Clark, Heath Miller, and others set the tone for some injuries that could be seen. And individual player rivalries developed with infamous characters throughout, such as Terrell Suggs. In other words, it is not surprising that someone like Neal, who had a storied career elsewhere, came into the rivalry and experienced a different level of punishment.