Steelers-Ravens A Breath Of Fresh Air Following Another Nasty Bengals Game

Make no mistake, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens has gotten ugly at times over the years. They have participated in some of the most brutal games of the past two decades, and the events of some of those games have helped lead to changes in how the game is officiated.

But that does not compare to the nastiness and lack of respect that we have seen over the course of the past several years in the Steelers’ games against the Cincinnati Bengals, a tone that has largely been driven by one man: Vontaze Burfict. A team captain, he refused to shake players’ hands in the first go-around, and on Monday, the Bengals didn’t even bother to bring him out for the pre-game coin toss.

A captain. At home. In prime time. Being held back from participating in the coin toss. I think that says quite a lot in and of itself.

It’s almost as though Sunday’s upcoming game against the Ravens will be a respite from the unsportsmanlike tenor that has become palpable during Steelers-Bengals games. At least when it comes to the Ravens, there is a clear mutual respect there. Perhaps the fact that those games have actually been competitive in terms of win-to-loss ratio might have something to do with it.

Take, for example, the fact that the Ravens opened their meetings this week with the team saying a prayer for Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who is just beginning the arduous journey of recovering from a spinal injury. Baltimore hasn’t always done the right thing, but respect for their adversary has been a constant.

There has always been a lot of respect from both organizations, from both sets of playersArthur Moats told Chris Adamski. With Shazier’s injury, Moats has been lining up inside, and could play there Sunday. “We are going to have a lot of big hits, but you never feel like it’s with the malicious intent that you sometimes get when we play Cincinnati”.

“There is always that respect level”, he continued, “and I feel like that’s the difference between this rivalry and when we play Cincinnati”, a declaration that is, quite frankly, rather sad.

It is not universal, of course. Steelers safety Mike Mitchell came to the defense of Bengals safety George Iloka when he was suspended for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Antonio Brown in the end zone, saying that he knows Iloka well and trains with him in the offseason.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been clobbered from time while playing the Ravens. Nobody has brought him down more than Terrell Suggs, who is having another strong season. But he likens playing Baltimore to “two friends going at it on the playground”.

“They’re going to knock your head off, you’re going to try to knock theirs off”, he said of the physicality of their matchups with the Ravens, “but you’re going to help them up and respect them and say, ‘great job, let’s go at it again’”.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Orlysteel

    It’s not a rivalry when you whip their butt everytime, they damn know we’re dey.

  • DirtDawg1964

    It was nasty before Burfict appeared on the scene. Kimo’s drive into Palmer’s knees was the beginning, in my opinion. Then there was the Ward hit on Rivers. Pretty much set the tone for some hard hitting action.

    Pac-Man and Burfict have jus taken it to another level.

    Watch the games closely. You will often see a Bengal use their forearm on someone’s head after the tackle has been made. Typically as they are getting up -they lean into the helmet of the Steeler player. I’ve seen Burfict, Dunlap and others do it.

    It’s just despicable. Lewis has no control of that team. He’s a disgrace.

  • GravityWon

    The referees lost control of this game & the 2015 playoff game when they didn’t call those types of questionable acts. You need to call unsportsmanlike or roughing penalties early in this rivalry to set the tone.

    Iloka had a marginal cheap shot in the 1st half on a defenseless AB. In most games it should NOT have been called. In this rivalry the referees needed to call it to make a statement that they weren’t go to tolerate any shenanigans.

    In 2015 a Bengals players shoved a Steelers player on a pile after the play. Not typically a huge deal but it escalated a couple plays later when they didn’t make any call. A Steelers player shoved a little harder as retaliation and got a 15 yarder.

    Point being the refs need to be more cognizant of history before games get away.

  • RaleighSteelersFan

    I think there were 239 yards of accepted penalties. How many flags need to be thrown before the players play with respect. That game had a lot of problems but blaming the cheap shots on the referees seems like deflecting to me.

  • GravityWon

    They were calling only ticky tack holds.

    They are partially to blame. If you send a message regarding roughing early, then the coaches & players will adjust.

    Watch college & high school refs from the front row. You will spot a huge difference between refs who know how to manage a game and those that only know the rules.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I think a lot of fans’ attitudes have shifted along with this rivalry as well. I can remember when the Ravens inspired nothing but bitterness in me—back in the Ed Reed/Troy (comparisons), Ed Reed/Hines (rivalry), Ray Lewis/Harrison (heavy hitter) days.

    But much of the old guard from that era has hung it up. Those who were new kids on the block then are savvy vets now. We’ve even seen players swapping colors (Jacoby Jones and Mike Wallace), albeit with different results. Really, this rivalry comes down to a matter of two dogs, one bone. They’ll dance around it for as long as they can, but neither has any intention of letting it go.

    The Ravens have their eyes set on securing their playoff spot. The Steelers want to lock up another division title and a bye week. No one is going to hold the door open for the other.

  • sbfalex76

    “We are going to have a lot of big hits, but you never feel like it’s with the malicious intent that you sometimes get when we play Cincinnati”… Couldn’t agree with Moats any more. Case in point: That voracious torpedo Ryan Clark hit on Willis McGahee during that epic 2008 AFC Championship game was so hard that it knocked him out for several minutes but not a single Raven believed that the hit was malicious and with ill intent. Players from both teams simply gathered around McGahee hand in hand and prayed for him. That right there is what we have going on with the Ravens. A true rivalry at the highest level of competitiveness! With the Bengals it seems like, due to their inability to beat us, they had to take out our stars and ruin our chances in order to satisfy their discontent at their own inabilities.

  • charles

    Agree with all above. Cincinnati malicious.
    However, please don’t forget the first down pose sweeping NFL was from AB after taking vicious hit on crossing route on critical 3rd down at critical point in a Ravens game, I believe it was ABs 2nd year. Also Hines called out Ben’s toughness before Ravens game and subsequently Ngata crushed Ben’s nose with a fist to the face inside Ben facemask, on a late hit, certainly one of the dirtiest hits ever.

  • SilverSteel

    Well said.

  • Obi Ryn Denobi

    I’ve heard Steelers-Ravens called many things over the years. But you know you’ve been to some bad damn places, when ‘breath of fresh air’ fits!!!