Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says it's his “favorite week of the year—both of them.” What he's referring to is the two weeks the Ravens prepare to face the Pittsburgh Steelers in what is the fiercest rivalry in the current history of the NFL.
Every year, Baltimore buzz is particularly noisy as fans, media, and the team get ready to take on the black and gold in what is almost always a game that defines the AFC playoff picture. This week, the Ravens plan their trip to visit the Steelers, who are a game behind them in the battle to be atop the AFC North.
“You know it’s a defining type of a rivalry. It means so much to both teams,” Harbaugh said, “So, we like being in this week, we love playing these guys, we love the preparation for these guys.”
Corner back Carey Williams spoke about the upcoming game, saying, ““They don’t like us, we don’t like them. It’s going to be hell out there.”
While that might sound somewhat in contrast with the “love” John Harbaugh attached to the experience of playing Pittsburgh, the truth is, these two teams thrive off of the intensity, the physicality, and the drama of their annual matches. Williams' hell, in a paradox of literary proportions, is his heaven. And all the animosity comes with an equal share of respect.
“We’re excited to go play it – we always are,” Harbaugh explained, “We respect them, and we love playing against them. I suspect they feel the same way.”
Pittsburgh holds the upper hand overall in the rivalry, 21 games to 14, and in the John Harbaugh area, the Steelers boast a 6-4 record against the Ravens. Baltimore, however, has won the past three out of four contests, and Pittsburgh hasn't beaten the Ravens since January of 2011.
If the past is any prediction, Sunday's battle will be hard fought. Seven of the past eight meetings have been close—six of them decided by three points, and the seventh by four. Fans of both teams will be holding their breath Sunday night.
“It’s a huge game for both teams,” said Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith, “Not only for our divisions, but just for the cities as well.”
Steelers week, it should be noted, goes by another name in Pittsburgh.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin spoke to the press on Tuesday, saying, “It's Ravens week for us. This is going to be an awesome game. It always is.”