Nothing friendly about Steelers-Ravens rivalry

The Baltimore Sun

For the first time in years, the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers will play for first place in the AFC North.

But in this rivalry, it's not about standings. It's about which team is left standing.

The feud between the Ravens and the Steelers is perhaps the most heated in the division, if not the NFL.

The players cuss at one another. They kick one another. They even threaten to kill one another.

"It's never been about records," Ravens tight end Todd Heap said. "You always have that feeling when you go to play Pittsburgh. It's always there."

Asked to describe "that feeling," Heap said, "You just know you got to bring your best."

Other NFL rivalries have bad blood. Few have blood spilled like this one.

"There's no love lost between each other," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said.

A look at the most memorable altercations between the Ravens and the Steelers:

The bounty

In 2001, Ward accused the Ravens of having a bounty on himself and fellow receiver Plaxico Burress.

It started in the first meeting, when Ward delivered a hard block that apparently caused Rod Woodson's nose to bleed. After the game, Woodson found Ward on the field and, according to Ward, told him, "I'll get you back the next time."

When the teams played again a month later, Ward said he heard through the grapevine that there was a bounty. According to Ward, a Ravens player would be rewarded if he could knock out either one on a crossing route.

"That's ridiculous," then-coach Brian Billick said at the time. "They are competitive guys who battle. But there was no bounty out or anything like that."

The stomp

The most vicious hit in this rivalry occurred in 2002 - after a whistle.

After getting hit out of bounds following an interception, Ravens cornerback James Trapp slung Burress to the ground and ripped his helmet off. Trapp then hopped cleats-first onto Burress' abdomen.

A fight ensued, and both players were ejected from the game.

"It's nothing personal," Trapp said a day after the game.

Burress had been involved in a number of verbal confrontations with Ravens cornerbacks early in the game.

"You step on my neck, I'm going to try to rip your head off," then-Steelers linebacker Joey Porter said. "I'm going to react as if I'm on the street. My reaction would have been a lot worse than Plaxico's."

Trapp has since become the team chaplain for the Atlanta Falcons.

The taunt

In 2003, Porter became incensed when he watched Ray Lewis celebrate a tackle by performing the "boot," Porter's signature move.

Porter, who did not play that game because he was recovering from a gunshot wound, then went to the Ravens' bus outside Heinz Field and exchanged words with Lewis from about 50 feet away.

"He got exactly what he was looking for, a beating," Porter said after the game. "He made one tackle and he got up and did the 'boot' like he did something. Dude, you're getting blown out right now, and it happened all day."

In the second meeting that season, Lewis delivered the "boot" again during pre-game introductions. At the coin flip, Lewis and Porter refused to shake hands and went nose-to-nose shouting at each other and bobbing their heads.

The cheap shot

Porter was again at the center of an altercation in 2004 by crossing the line with Heap.

After spraining his ankle on the previous play, Heap limped to the line of scrimmage so the Ravens didn't have to waste a timeout on his injury in the final minute of the first half. As the Ravens spiked the ball to stop the clock, Porter shoved Heap to the ground, causing him to roll over backward.

"Porter's an [expletive]," cornerback Chris McAlister said after the game. "That's the bottom line. There's no reason for anyone to take a cheap shot like that."

Heap went on to miss nine games with the ankle injury.

"It was definitely a cheap shot. ... It was unnecessary," offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "I was trying to get him after that."

The threat

The latest incident in this rivalry happened last season, when Ravens linebacker Bart Scott threatened to "kill" Ward.

Scott issued the warning after Ward leveled him with a late block (it came when running back Willie Parker was going out of bounds). They will meet on the field tomorrow.

"I threatened him," Scott said last season. "If I see him again, I'm going to threaten him again."

In leading up to tomorrow night's game, Scott downplayed any grudge, but he did shed some perspective on the existing animosity between the Ravens and Steelers.

"I think it's a mirror image of two teams that are very physical," he said. "When you've got two rams butting heads, of course there's going to be some animosity because we're pretty much built the same way. We know it's going to be a man's day. Usually, the best team is the team that comes out and lays the wood the hardest."

RAVENS

@STEELERS

Tomorrow, 8:30 p.m.

TV: Ch. 13, ESPN

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Line: Steelers by 5

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