It has been said that the Steelers and Ravens rivalry is the greatest one in the NFL, maybe even in all of professional sports.
There’s no real way to determine that, of course, but it sure is an intensely good time whenever these two teams meet on the gridiron.
How many players have written their names on the banner of this rivalry over the past two decades? Hines Ward. Ed Reed. James Harrison. Terrell Suggs. Joey Porter. Joe Flacco. Ben Roethlisberger. Justin Tucker. Troy Polamalu. Ray Lewis. Ryan Clark. Lamar Jackson. Antonio Brown.
I can go on for days, but heck, before I stop, Ryan Mallett and Isaac Redman have even found ways to torture the souls of opposing fans in this rivalry.
As cliched as it is to say, you can almost always throw out the win/loss records when these two teams scrimmage. Even the two games played during the 2022 regular season, a campaign that has had the Ravens chasing an AFC North crown and Pittsburgh chasing relevance, were close and dramatic.
One point. That’s all that separated the Steelers and Ravens during the two contests, with each winning a close game on the other team’s home turf.
Sunday night was the latest example, and the Steelers walked away as the victors in a 16-13 classic at M&T Bank Stadium that had everyone talking...about Kenny Pickett, the rookie quarterback who engineered the game-winning drive in the final moments.
Pickett picked that drive in that game against that team in that venue to finally show the world—a world that was watching on NBC’s Sunday Night Football—that he can be something truly special if and when he puts it all together and figures out how to be an NFL quarterback.
Were the Ravens fans in attendance at M&T Bank Stadium confident that the defense would stop this rookie quarterback who really hadn’t done a whole heck of a lot up until he took the field with 4:16 left in the final period?
Maybe, but they had to be feeling a little queasy when Pickett rolled to his left and found a diving Pat Freiermuth for a 20-yard strike to midfield. Yeah, but that was just Pickett utilizing one of his strengths as a rookie quarterback: Throwing on the run (or off schedule). Surely, he couldn’t just sit back in the pocket and beat the Ravens that way, right? He proved them wrong one play later when he stood in the pocket and delivered a 28-yard laser to Steven Sims.
A few plays later, Pickett rolled to his left again to find Najee Harris with the 10-yard game-winner with 56 seconds left. If you go back and watch that highlight, you’ll see a clip of a Ravens fan wearing war paint and also a frown.
It’s okay to say that the Steelers/Ravens rivalry has lost its fastball in recent years. Still, while that’s accurate, it’s only because the stakes aren’t nearly as high as they were in the late-00s and early-10s when Pittsburgh and Baltimore weren’t just fighting for AFC North supremacy but for the right to go to the Super Bowl.
The in-game drama is still there. New players are stepping up to make sure this matchup still has meaning.
Will this rivalry ever get to where it was in 2008, 2010 or 2011? I guess players like Lamar Jackson and, yes, Kenny Pickett will have a thing or two to say about that.
I know one thing for sure: The Ravens and their fans are now fully aware of who Kenny Pickett is.
They may even be a bit worried about what he could become.