• Childs Walker of The Baltimore Sun wrote in a Jan. 16, 2009, article that the rivalry is rooted in the similarities between the cities and the teams.
It is a rivalry of similarity and proximity rather than difference and distance. Baltimore and Pittsburgh are midsized cities on the water that are separated by a four-hour drive and the Allegheny Mountains. Both reached heights of prosperity in the Industrial Age and watched too many jobs ebb away in the late 20th century. Both have pinned hopes for the future on service and research industries and on downtown redevelopment. And yes, both love pro football above any other sport. When the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers clash Sunday in their highest-stakes game ever, they will do so with a brotherly intensity.
• Gerry Dulac of the Post-Gazette traces the origins of the rivalry to a series of back-and-forths among players from the early part of the decade in an article also from Jan. 16, 2009.
Back in 2003, an injured Joey Porter, upset that some of the Ravens' players mocked his trademark "boot kick" while he was on the sideline nursing a gunshot wound, went to the Ravens' team bus and challenged their top dog, Ray Lewis, to get off and fight. A year earlier, wide receiver Plaxico Burress and Ravens cornerback James Trapp were ejected from a game in Baltimore when Burress took exception to an aggressive play by Trapp. The play? Trapp stomped on his head while Burress was on the ground.
Welcome to the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, arguably the nastiest in all of sports. If a punter and a little-used cornerback can create this kind of smear and loathing, what happens when you throw the irresistible force that is Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and the immovable object that is Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis onto the same field?
• Barry Barnes, the NFL writer for AOL Fanhouse, wrote earlier this season that what makes the Ravens-Steelers rivalry so special is the passion the teams' players exhibit.
Most rivalries over the years have watered down because the players are "boys" and they don't approach their supposedly hated opponents with the fiery passion that their fans expect them to have. Except for the Ravens and Steelers.
Coach Mike Tomlin called the Steelers-Ravens rivalry the best in football during his weekly press conference. Others agreed with him, including Ravens Coach John Harbaugh. "I think it is," said Harbaugh during a conference call. "Maybe he and I are biased because we are in it all of the time, but I don't see a better one out there. It's a great rivalry and it is an honor to be a part of it."
• USA Today's Mike Lopresti viewed the rivalry with a sense of nostalgia in a column that previewed the January 2009 matchup between the teams.
This rivalry is for people who like their coffee black and their ice cream vanilla. It is for those who still make their calls on landline phones, still mail postcards, still listen to music on CDs. It is black and white television, and the milkman coming to the door. As straightforward as a fight on the playground. This rivalry is about today, but smacks of yesterday.
• Gregg Rosenthal of NBC Sports' Pro Football Talk wrote earlier this season that trash talk between the teams is "cool."
The fans want the two teams to hate each other as much as the fans do. And so Steelers fans (and Ravens fans) likely appreciate the comments of Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark. "To me, the Ravens are just another football team," Clark said, per Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "They don't come in here wearing a cape. I am not scared they are going to take my lunch money."