It's just not Ravens/Steelers Week until you hear from Baltimore DE Terrell Suggs.
He brought himself into the spotlight of this rivalry yet again, this time, through a few choice quotes to the Baltimore Sun. Suggs on Sunday's game:
They already declared war on us. We're taking 53 men to the apocalypse and we ain't bringing flowers.
It's the same Suggs who mentioned his dominance over Pittsburgh, QB Ben Roethlisberger in particular, after Baltimore's Week 1 victory over Pittsburgh:
His soul may belong to God, but his ass belongs to me.
What other rivalry in the league involves such colorful characters as Suggs? Or where such quotes are commonplace days before kickoff?
Suggs also reportedly "begged" Hines Ward to return to the field, after missing last week with an ankle injury:
I’m looking right at you 86. I need you to play. Please put on that 86, that smile and all the things you do. We need all that for this this game.
Suggs makes the media's job easier, but he's not lying; he makes Roethlisberger's and the Steelers jobs much harder. His15.5 career sacks are the highest of any one defender against the Steelers seventh-year QB. Suggs had three sacks and two forced fumbles against Pittsburgh in a 35-7 win over the defending AFC champions.
Baltimore's offense has scored points, but their defense has been the fuel they've burned to a 5-2 mark, one half game behind Pittsburgh for best in the AFC. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin knows it, too.
"I am not ready to at least put us in the conversation with the Ravens' defense," Tomlin said on Tuesday. "We are not even close to doing what they are doing right now."
It's a game featuring two of the league's best pass defenses. Baltimore gets it done with sacks and turnovers (26 and 16), while the Steelers are suffocating in coverage (171 yards per game and 15 plays of 20+ yards, both top in the league). After allowing 215 team passing yards against the Ravens in Week 1, CB Bryant McFadden had a hamstring injury, and didn't start in Week 2. He hasn't made his way back to the starting lineup - and likely won't this year - and the Steelers have allowed seven passing touchdowns in those seven games (6-1).
While Baltimore blew the Steelers out of M&T Bank Stadium in Week 1, it's more likely both defenses will settle down and put out their typical dominating performances. Both have had inconsistent play along their respective offensive lines, and while both have shown they can run the ball, both had to rely on their passing games last week.
Baltimore found themselves down 24-3 at home against Arizona, while Pittsburgh threw for a franchise-high (in a win) 50 pass attempts to beat New England.
It appears Baltimore has the edge in overall defense, but Pittsburgh has a red-hot quarterback, while Baltimore's Joe Flacco has been inconsistent at best. The problem for the Steelers, though, as Suggs so eloquently put it, they struggle to stop Suggs off the edge. LT Max Starks has played well since being re-signed by the Steelers, and could be a critical factor in the re-match.
It's hard to envision a scenario where Pittsburgh returns a similar favor Baltimore gave them in Week 1, but with so many starters having moved in and out of the Steelers lineup, it's a completely different team than the one in Baltimore in Week 1.
Gay replaced McFadden at cornerback, and Keenan Lewis replaced Gay as the nickelback. Starks is at left tackle over Jonathan Scott. Marcus Gilbert is at right tackle over Willie Colon. Ramon Foster is at right guard over Doug Legursky. OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are likely to be out Sunday, and would then likely be replaced by Lawrence Timmons (replaced Harrison the last four games) and either Jason Worlids or Chris Carter. Aaron Smith is on the IR, replaced by Ziggy Hood.
The Steelers improved both offensively and defensively amid all of these changes. They are still the Ravens, though - a quality team playing with a high level of emotion and success.
"They are the best in the world right now," Tomlin said.
It figures to be yet another classic battle between these teams.