OWINGS MILLS - Ravens-Steelers is what it is, one of the best rivalries in the NFL.
"I've seen it from both sides," Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "I've seen it from the outside-in. Down Route 1 in College Park, I've seen several fights over these two teams. And obviously, being in the building as a part of this organization, I've seen how it's been on the field and the preparation that goes into it, and I think it says a lot about the game itself. ...
"They have one of the best organizations in football up there as well. There's a lot of history and tradition with them. Anytime you get two very physical teams playing each other, it leads to some great football."
But today's game between Baltimore and Pittsburgh is of great importance to both teams aside from anything to do with the rivalry.
For the Steelers, they started the season 0-4, but a win combined with a Bengals loss to the Lions would put them less than two games back of first place in the AFC North. A loss, though, would drop them to 1-5 and put them in an even more difficult position as far as making a push for the playoffs.
"I don't think records are as important in this game from an intensity standpoint," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said during a conference call with Baltimore media this week. "If nothing else, I think it heightens it. There's a certain sense of urgency based on the position that the team is in."
The Steelers beat the Jets last week, but they are a team looking for improvement in several areas.
Ben Roethlisberger is still Ben Roethlisberger, and he's thrown for 1,053 yards in Pittsburgh's last three games. The Steelers also still have Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver and Heath Miller at tight end. But this year's Steelers have been bad at two of the things that Pittsburgh has been so consistently good at for most of the last two decades - running the ball and getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The only team averaging fewer rushing yards per game than the Steelers is winless Jacksonville. And while Pittsburgh has gotten four sacks from outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, it has just seven sacks as a team, the second-fewest in the league.
The Steelers have also struggled at times stopping the run. They are allowing just 3.9 yards per carry, but they gave up 87 yards on just 16 carries to Bears running back Matt Forte in Week 3 and 140 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries to Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in Week 4.
Pittsburgh has also been of the worst teams in the NFL at protecting the quarterback. Roethlisberger has been sacked 19 times in five games and will now be facing a Ravens defense that has the third-most sacks in the NFL.
But Baltimore is looking for improvement from several areas heading into today's game as well, most notably from its offensive line in both pass protection and even more so in the running game.
"We're more concerned about our situation [than theirs] right now," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's what we need to be concerned with. And it's a division game, so it counts for probably a game and a half. ... It's an important game."
A win combined with a Cincinnati loss would tie Baltimore for first place in the AFC North, but a loss would drop the Ravens to 3-4 heading into their bye week. A Baltimore loss combined with a Browns win over the Packers would also drop Baltimore into third place in the AFC North.
"From a distance, this rivalry has always seemed pretty intense," Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "But every game is important. If we can win every game from now on, that would be awesome. I came to here to try and win championships, and we need to get in gear and get in playoff mode, and we need to win this one."