Ike Taylor takes down Bernard Pierce in the first game Nov. 18.
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Injured veterans Ray Lewis, left, and Ben Roethlisberger meet before the game.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
You call this a rivalry? The Ravens might call it a turkey shoot. They can sweep the Steelers for the second consecutive season and beat them four times in a row for the first time since this rivalry moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996.
"They've been dominating us," Steelers safety Ryan Clark declared.
Baltimore can clinch its second consecutive AFC North Division title today with a win and a Cincinnati loss. The Steelers are left scrambling for a wild-card playoff spot and if they do not make it, it would be the second time in four years they have not.
The Ravens (9-2), it would seem, have overtaken the Steelers (6-5) as the dominant team in the AFC North and with a win today would add to that dominance.
"I wouldn't say dominant," defensive end Ziggy Hood protested. "A complete dominance is where the other person gives up and doesn't fight."
The Steelers have made it close in the past two, both at Heinz Field. They lost 13-10 with a wounded quarterback two weeks ago, and Baltimore pulled out a 23-20 victory with a 92-yard drive that scored with eight seconds left to virtually wrap up the division in 2011.
Nevertheless, the Ravens -- whether it happens today or next week -- will win their second consecutive AFC North title. The Steelers last won two in a row in 2007-08.
"It depends on who you're talking to and the resume you're looking at," cornerback Ike Taylor said as to the Ravens' recent dominance. "If you want to look at Super Bowls, no. If you want to look at the last couple of years as far as winning the division, yeah. If you want to look at the last couple years vs. AFC opponents, yes, they have been dominant."
One thing Baltimore has not been able to do is turn that dominance into a trip to the Super Bowl. The Steelers stood in their way twice and the Ravens came within a dropped pass last season of getting there, losing at New England, 23-20.
Ravens halfback Ray Rice, who walked out of Heinz Field two weeks ago with a Terrible Towel draped over his head, refused to crown his team the more dominant one until it wins something more significant.
"We obviously have to have something to show for it," he said. "You can win in the regular season, but you have to win when it matters. We have tremendous respect for that organization. They are winners. They win Super Bowls. They have quite a few. We have one. I don't think the tide will change until we win our Super Bowls.
"Everybody counts the Steelers out," he continued. "We never count them out. Their record never really matters because that team always finds a way to creep back into the hunt."
A taste of
The Post-Gazette is offering a free two-week trial to PG Plus, a premium pay site that offers sports extras from local teams, pro and college, such as Steelers blogs, opinions, Q&A with readers and other information. Here is a sampling from me at PG Plus this week:
The notion that the Steelers cannot win without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback or that only he could have led them to victories over Baltimore and Cleveland is misguided.
Roethlisberger should have been getting recognition as an MVP candidate of the league for his performance this season. He kept them afloat when they were 2-3, kept them from being 0-5.
Yet somehow, the Steelers still managed to lose to Oakland and Tennessee with him at quarterback, and when he left the home game in Kansas City early in the third quarter, the Steelers and dreadful Chiefs were tied, 10-10.
Without Roethlisberger, the Steelers would have beaten Baltimore without a fumble and a dropped pass. The Steelers would have beaten Cleveland without him had there been, oh, three lost fumbles instead of five. Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch did not come close to playing at the level of Roethlisberger at any time, but the point is, they did lose to some bad teams with him and they should have won a couple of games without him. And it was Leftwich who led the Steelers to the field goal drive that put them ahead 13-10 before KC tied it and sent it to overtime.
Casey Hampton will tell you the Steelers-Ravens rivalry is as bitter as they get and told me before their first meeting that he believes the Ravens hate the Steelers but it's not the other way around.
Hampton has one big Ravens fan.
"I don't know his name, but we go at it every year," Hampton said. "He brings me a hot dog out and everything, so he takes care of me. That's my guy."
Does he actually eat it?
"All the time. The first couple times I saw nothing was wrong with it, so I'm good."
On to your questions:
Q: Ed, since when do the Steelers print depth charts, and (gasp) share them with the media? I don't recall hearing of that before. I was stunned to see Coach T. provided this to the masses when it's all you can do to get a straight, let alone believable, answer to a question. What's next, daily tweets from the coach?
A: The league requires each team to provide a depth chart and they do so on a weekly basis. You can go to any team's website and read it. Now, Mike Tomlin's depth charts haven't always reflected reality. For example, he still had Ben Roethlisberger as the starting quarterback heading to Cleveland and he has Mike Adams as the No. 1 right tackle this week. Also, for years he would list Ike Taylor as the starting left cornerback when he was long the starting right cornerback. This is the one time that I can remember that he really used the depth chart to both send a message and to make news.
Q: I was looking at the 2008 draft class and see that Mendy and Mundy are the only ones left and they are [unrestricted free agents] at season's end. The word is out they have a great chance of not being here next year. If that happens, could this be the biggest bust draft year as a whole and is my info accurate?
A: There have been many more and bigger draft busts. Mendenhall was not a bust, not with seasons of 1,108 yards rushing in 2009 and 1,273 in 2010. He had a down year in 2011 but managed 928 yards. But after him -- and he'll possibly not be here in 2013 -- that was one bad draft with Limas Sweed second, Bruce Davis third, Tony Hills fourth. The only other two who hung around were Mundy and Dennis Dixon. It was by far their worst in this century.