When the Ravens and Steelers renew the NFL's best current rivalry Sunday night, some might question whether this is still the NFL's best current rivalry without those star players. My response: that's blasphemy.
While this game may have lost some luster nationally with the loss of some name players, this rivalry has never been built on being flashy. What makes this series stands out is there's always something on the line. On Sunday night, the Ravens (7-2) and Steelers (6-3) are playing for first place in the AFC North.
What makes this rivalry so memorable is the drama. Games between the Ravens and Steelers always seem to come down to the final minute. Five of the last six games have been decided by three points.
And what makes this rivalry so different from others is they really don't care for one another. You can measure this dislike by how much they like hitting each other. The winner of this rivalry is the one who has imposed their will on the other for three hours. It's old school. It's smash mouth. It's violent.
Asked if the game is going to be different without Lewis, who has played in 29 of the series' 32 meetings, Steelers offensive tackle Max Starks said, "I think it will be the same old challenge. When you look at it, yeah, he's the emotional leader. But this group has moved on from that. It's going to be a tough challenge. It always is. It's going to be a bloodbath."
This is one of the few times this week where the Ravens will agree with the Steelers. "We don't like them, they don't like us," Baltimore cornerback Cary Williams said. "It's going to be hell out there."