This incarnation of the Steelers-Ravens rivalry has added meaning with Jerome Bettis, slated to receive his Hall of Fame Ring at halftime, despite already being a well known brawl of a game. He expects the atmosphere to be "crazy and full of emotion" and seems genuinely excited to again be on the field before the Steelers' fanbase. To make things more interesting, Bettis gets his final honor as Le'Veon Bell gets his first chance to play without Ben Roethlisberger.
Bell got acquainted with the Steelers-Ravens rivalry early on in his career. He was knocked out after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit to the side of his head from Jimmy Smith as he attempted to duck into the end zone. His injury was likely all the more painful with the knowledge that his touchdown was also overturned after such an effort due to his helmet coming off. Since then he has seen years of exponential growth leading up to having to sit out another Steelers-Ravens matchup last year in the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, he had to watch from the sideline as an offense that had become reliant on him was taken to pieces by an aggressive Ravens defense.
This game has the potential to be Bell's defining moment and could represent biggest impact he can have on the Steelers-Ravens rivalry even as he goes on to have what should be a very successful career. Bell should have to shoulder a lot of the offense with a short week to prepare Mike Vick for the intensity of the rivalry. his is Bell's first game where he may feel the full weight of needing to be a leader in the NFL.
There is a lot to be excited about for this game as storylines involving the past and the future of the Steelers but also the present as the team sets expectations on the level of play the team can have with its offensive leader on the sidelines for several weeks. Despite all these competing narratives the very same running back being honored today provides a tempering voice that brings the ultimate goal back into focus.
"It’s not about the Hall of Fame and all of that, it’s about winning championships. That is the goal. With that being the goal, that was the ultimate accomplishment.
"It was never being a Hall of Famer. That wasn’t the dream. The dream was winning the Super Bowl."
No doubt Bell had a similar dream growing up. Let this be just the next step on his path to success.