Great hate

RAVENS INSIDER

January 18, 2009|By Mike Preston

Back in 2003, the Ravens' Jamal Lewis was trying to establish an NFL single-season rushing record in the final game of the regular season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Earlier that day, the Ravens clinched the AFC North when the Cleveland Browns beat the Cincinnati Bengals, so this was a meaningless game.

Instead of resting his players, Ravens coach Brian Billick played his starters, and Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher kept in his first team as well because he didn't want Lewis to set a record against his team.

Lewis didn't break the record, but Baltimore won the game, 13-10, in overtime. A week later, the Ravens lost to the Tennessee Titans, 20-17, at home in the first round of the playoffs.

Maybe Billick should have rested his players, but the lesson is there is no such thing as a meaningless game when the Ravens play the Steelers.

They hate each other.

Today's AFC championship game will be the 28th meeting between the two rivals. So much has happened. One coach has resigned and another has been fired. A star quarterback was born, two new stadiums were built and an alleged bounty was put out on a player. There has been trash talking, and there have been cheap shots.

Some of us haven't missed a Baltimore-Pittsburgh game, and today we look at some of the best and worst of the series.

Best story

In 2003, Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter couldn't play because he had been shot in the left buttocks about a week earlier in Denver. During the game, Porter thought Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis had mocked him by using his famed "golf swing" after a tackle.

After the game, Porter reportedly tried to round up running back Jerome Bettis and wide receiver Plaxico Burress to go beat up Lewis outside the Ravens' team bus. But Burress and Bettis declined, telling Porter they had to play against Lewis again during the season and Porter didn't because he played on defense.

Good friends, huh?

Biggest comeback

On Oct. 5, 1997, the Ravens had a 21-0 lead at halftime at Memorial Stadium. The Steelers returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown; five Ravens turnovers later, the Steelers had rallied for a 42-34 victory.

Ouch.

Bye-bye, Ted

The Ravens opened their new stadium before an announced crowd of 68,847 on Sept. 6, 1998, and lost to the Steelers, 20-13. The next day, Ravens owner Art Modell said his family was embarrassed by the loss.

Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda (left) was fired at the end of the season. Losing that game was the unpardonable sin.

Bigfoot

If you think an Iraqi reporter throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush was a big deal, how about the time the Ravens lost to the Steelers because a player lost his cleat?

In September 1996, the Ravens had a drive going and were closing in on the Steelers during the fourth quarter. Inside Pittsburgh's 10-yard line, Ravens running back Earnest Byner took a handoff to the Steelers' 4 but lost his shoe. The Ravens put in running back Earnest Hunter (below), who took the handoff and dived from the 4 on fourth down. The only problem was he landed at the 2.

Afterward, Marchibroda stood in shock, shaking his head because he couldn't believe a player was dumb enough to dive from the 4. That was the only carry of Hunter's Ravens career, which officially ended after the season. But we know better. His career plunged with that dive in Pittsburgh.

Cheapest shot

The dirtiest was Porter's shoving Ravens tight end Todd Heap to the ground in September 2004. The Ravens were in a hurry-up offense and wanted to spike the ball. Heap, who had injured his ankle the play before, barely made it to the line of scrimmage. On the snap, the ball was spiked, but that didn't stop Porter from blasting Heap. Little Joey KO'd him.

Big Ben

In September 2004, the Ravens bounced Tommy Maddox out of the game, and he was replaced by a youngster named Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens won that day, 30-13, but they also helped give birth to Big Ben, who was named the Offensive Rookie of the Year at the end of the season.

Biggest play

On a nationally televised Sunday night game in December 2001, Kordell Stewart threw a short pass over the middle to Bobby Shaw, who split the Ravens' safeties on the way to a 90-yard touchdown. The Steelers won, 26-21, in what might have been the best game of Stewart's career.

Bumping heads

There wasn't a lot of love between Billick (below) and Cowher. Billick won his first three against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, and after the third game, he stated how he had no problem playing in Pittsburgh because "he had done well here [in Pittsburgh]."

Check.

Cowher took offense. When he won five in a row in Baltimore against Billick, he quickly pointed out he liked playing in Baltimore because "he had done well here."

Checkmate.

The Smackdown

On Nov. 26, 2006, the Ravens sacked Roethlisberger nine times in a 27-0 rout. The featured hit of the game was Ravens linebacker Bart Scott putting his helmet into the chest of Roethlisberger. Few players ever get that kind of shot on Roethlisberger.

Happy anniversary

The Steelers celebrated their 75th year and pummeled the Ravens, 38-7, in November 2007. Not only did Pittsburgh destroy the Ravens' secondary, but Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward also had more knockouts than Muhammad Ali, blowing up Scott and safety Ed Reed on crack-back blocks.

Postseason

The teams have met only once in the playoffs. Pittsburgh won, 27-10, in a second-round game in the 2001 season. Ravens fans wanted Billick to pull quarterback Elvis Grbac for Randall Cunningham.

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

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