[caption id="attachment_1132" align="alignright" width="289"] Before Steelers fans hated the Ravens, they hated the Browns. They left Cleveland long ago, but the hatred runs deeper than ever.[/caption] By Bob D'Angelo, Smack Zone Contributor You know sparks will fly when the Steelers and Ravens meet tonight at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. It’s a tradition between these AFC North rivals. Sure, some players and teams talk smack, but these two teams back it up. Hard-hitting, tough and intense. Plus, the Steelers and Ravens clearly don’t like each other. “It's just pure hatred – just like two old-fashioned bullies meeting in an alley,” former Steelers receiver Hines Ward told USA Today. There may be hatred, but there is plenty of respect. “It’s the best rivalry in football,” Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs told USA Today in the same article. “Hatred is a very strong word, but it seems fitting. “But there’s a lot of respect going there. Because the two teams are so similar.” [caption id="attachment_1188" align="alignleft" width="296"] The Ravens carved their own identity in Baltimore when they bolted from Cleveland. But tradition and history run deep, and hatred of Pittsburgh remains a franchise constant.[/caption] Since 2000, the Ravens have won two Super Bowls and reached the playoffs 10 times. The Steelers have won two Super Bowls and have made nine playoff appearances. In their own division, the two rivals have combined to win the AFC North 10 times in the 13 years since the NFL established its current alignment. Pittsburgh and Baltimore have met four times in the postseason, with the Steelers winning three times. The Ravens finally broke through in January 2015, winning 30-17. Here are some of the greatest hits from this intense rivalry: In the AFC Championship Game on January 18, 2009, Steelers safety Ryan Clark put a crunching, legal hit on Willis McGahee. The Ravens’ running back had just caught a pass from quarterback Joe Flacco, but Clark knocked McGahee unconscious. The Steelers punched a ticket to the Super Bowl in Tampa with a 23-14 victory.
*****On November 5, 2007, the Steelers romped to a 38-7 victory. Ward leveled Ed Reed with a huge block, knocking the Ravens safety out of the game. Ward also flattened linebacker Bart Scott, who said after the game that he wanted to “kill” the Steelers’ receiver.
*****[caption id="attachment_1189" align="alignright" width="230"] In Pittsburgh, everything purple is anathema. In fact, purple is outlawed. (Or should be.)[/caption] Suggs has sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethisberger 16½ times, more than any other player in the league. Days before the Ravens beat the Steelers 23-20 on November 6, 2011, Suggs conceded that Roethlisberger was a great quarterback. But … “God can have his soul,” Suggs said. “But his (butt) belongs to me.”
*****During the Steelers’ 13-10 victory on December 5, 2010, Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata broke Roethlisberger’s nose during a sack. Big Ben had to walk off the field, using a towel to stop the bleeding.
*****During the Steelers’ 23-20 overtime win on September 29, 2008, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis hit Rashard Mendenhall so hard, the rookie running back suffered a season-ending broken shoulder. A few weeks later on Atlanta’s “2 Live Stews” radio show, Suggs suggested the Ravens had a bounty on Ward and Mendenhall. But he backed off that boast, claiming it was a joke.
*****Even the coaches have gotten into the act. The Steelers’ Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 for his actions in a November 2013 game. Tomlin drifted onto the field during Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return that had touchdown written all over it. Jones had to slow down and veer away from the sideline and was tackled. But the Ravens won 22-20, thwarting a Steelers’ two-point conversion in the final minute.
*****Harbaugh didn't endear himself to Tomlin in the 2011 season opener. Baltimore scored 21 seconds into the second half to take a 27-7 lead, then ran a fake on the extra point. Holder Sam Koch scored on the two-point conversion to make it 29-7. The Ravens went on to win, 35-7.
*****There was a contentious handshake that was captured on video in 2012, with Baltimore’s John Harbaugh trying to congratulate his counterpart. Tomlin tried to brush it off, but Harbaugh grabbed his hand and tugged hard, bringing him back to say something face to face. Tomlin then walked away. The back story on that was a locker room clip of Harbaugh praising his team after its 13-10 win at Heinz Field on November 18, 2012. “The toughest team won that football game. The mentally tough team won that football game,” Harbaugh said. “The better team won the football game. “The team that knows how to win won that football game.” Typical locker room stuff, but Tomlin didn’t like it. So when the Steelers ended the Ravens’ 15-game home winning streak a few weeks later, he was in no mood for handshakes and pats on the shoulder. Both coaches have insisted there is nothing personal between them. [caption id="attachment_1190" align="alignleft" width="252"] This pretty much sums it up for Baltimore re. the Steelers.[/caption] “Not personally, but professionally, he wants the same things that I want,” Tomlin said in January before the teams’ last playoff game. “He appears to be similarly as committed to it as I am, so we’re going to have problems. “He’s a good guy, but when we step into the stadium, we’ve got business, and that business is not the same.” Harbaugh agreed. “We have a little fun together,” Harbaugh told NBC’s Bob Costas. “We go to the owners meetings and laugh a little bit, but in the end we do want the same thing.” Both coaches preach hard-nosed football, and neither team will back down. With Roethlisberger out for several weeks after suffering a sprained MCL in his left knee last Sunday, he will be replaced by Michael Vick. That will create an interesting twist for tonight’s game -- Vick's mobility against an aggressive Ravens defense. It's likely to create a new chapter in the rivalry, particularly if Vick shines.