When the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers tangle in Sunday's season opener at M&T Bank Stadium, Terrell Suggs expects his path to Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to be littered with roadblocks.
And those roadblocks have names – as in, offensive tackles Jonathan Scott and Willie Colon, tight end Heath Miller and H-back David Johnson.
"It's going to start with a chip [from] Heath Miller, a back," the four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker said Wednesday. "I won't be one-on-one with them because they remember the playoff game, they remember all the games I had. I think the game here, I hit Roethlisberger something like six or seven times. So like I said, they're doing everything right now possible to make sure that I don't have a good game."
And for good reason. Although the Steelers have won the last two meetings and six of the last eight games in this series, Suggs has terrorized Pittsburgh and Roethlisberger.
According to statistics researched by the Ravens' public relations staff, Suggs has collected 10½ sacks against the Steelers in the regular season. That's the most sacks any active player has recorded against Pittsburgh and the second-most Suggs has posted against a single team. (He has sacked Cleveland quarterbacks 12 times in the regular season.)
Suggs has taken down Roethlisberger 12½ times – regular season and postseason – which is the most sacks any defensive player has registered against Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger, who – at 6 feet, 5 inches and 241 pounds – isn't exactly a wallflower, chuckled when asked to describe Suggs' strengths as a pass rusher.
"How long do you have?" he asked rhetorically during a conference call with Baltimore media. "He's such a ferocious player. He's got really long arms and legs and he uses his arms real well. Super athletic, fast, strong, ferocious. I think even something that people don't write about, [there's his] intimidation factor alone. I think a lot of linemen and running backs and tight ends – before the play even starts – are a little intimidated because of his reputation of being a such a good, ferocious player. So I'm still looking for a weakness in his game. He's pretty doggone good."
Suggs does wear a scowl during games, and his relentless chattering has unnerved even some of his own teammates during practices, but he dismissed the notion of intimidating Steelers players as a psychological ploy.
"They're trying to psych us out," he said. "'Oh, he scares me.' They'll do everything possible to make sure I don't have a good game.
"I assure you that [left guard Chris] Kemoeatu is not rattled," Suggs continued. "And last year, they had big Flozell [Adams], and I've always respected Flozell Adams as a good player in this league. Max Starks, they released him, but he was one of the few tackles that has given me problems. If you look at the games, we usually have good battles against each other. But I don't think they're rattled [about] me at all, and I guarantee you that they've got something in store where I won't be one-on-one with any of their tackles."
The 28-year-old Suggs is already the franchise leader in sack yards (519) and forced fumbles (22), and he is second in fumble recoveries (11). He has led the team in sacks in five of eight seasons since being selected with the 10th overall pick in 2003, including 11 of the Ravens' 27 sacks last season.
Suggs has especially excelled against Pittsburgh. Last season alone, he accrued 15 tackles and 5½ sacks in three games.
In a 13-10 loss at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 5, Suggs sacked Roethlisberger 1½ times and hit him five times. In their last meeting, he sacked the Steelers quarterback three times in a 31-24 playoff loss on Jan. 15.
On Wednesday, Suggs attributed his success to his hatred of losing.
"I'm pretty sure that they've beaten us more than any other team in the NFL because we play each other the most. I just don't want to lose," he said. "So every time I play them, I try to crank it up some more. So that can explain it. But what does it matter if they still end up winning the game?"
But on Friday, he gave the team's PR staff another reason for his exceptional play.
"Our two defenses are always being compared. 'Who's the better defense?'" Suggs said. "When the players are at battle, I feel like I have to play better than their two outside linebackers [James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley]. That's my motivation – don't let the outside linebackers outplay me."
Suggs' run against the Steelers wasn't lost on Jarret Johnson, the Ravens' other outside linebacker. But Johnson couldn't put his finger on why Suggs fared better against Pittsburgh than some of the other opponents the team meets on a regular basis.