Many athletes tend to avoid acknowledging that one game is more important than another. But Ravens center Matt Skura acknowledged that there is a place in his heart for playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team he rooted for after being born in Pittsburgh 25 years ago and growing up there for the first 14 years of his life.
“It’s definitely a special week because I just have so many friends that are still living in Pittsburgh,” he said three days before the Ravens host to the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday. “And then my whole family and I, we grew up Steelers fans. We were hardcore Steelers fans growing up, but it’s definitely fun. I think my family puts on the purple and black for a couple games a year and are cheering really hard for me. Even my friends back in Pittsburgh, they’ll say they’re just cheering for me specifically. It’s always fun.
“Last year, playing in the game for the first time, it was a very surreal moment for me just because that’s the big game I always grew up on, watching the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Ravens. So it’s always fun to go against those guys, and it’s always a tough match. It’s very physical. So I know it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The 6-foot-3, 313-pound Skura has been the team’s starting center since the preseason, succeeding Ryan Jensen, who left in the offseason to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Skura has not missed a start this season and is graded as the 18th-best center by scouting website Pro Football Focus.
Skura, who started eight games at right guard last season for six-time Pro Bowl selection Marshal Yanda, is 1-2 against Pittsburgh, which includes a 26-14 win by the Ravens in Week 4.
He told The Baltimore Sun last year about his admiration for strong safety Troy Polamalu and guard Alan Faneca. On Thursday, he recalled following the Steelers and cheering on another franchise great.
“For me, it was watching on TV,” he said. “We didn’t go to many games. My dad was like, ‘You know, we’ll just stay home and enjoy the comfort of home.’ But yeah, that was every Sunday afternoon, watching the Steelers play. That was just something that my brothers and I grew up doing, and we had all of our jerseys on. I was a big Jerome Bettis fan. That was my favorite guy growing up. Playing ice hockey, I was wearing No. 36 because of him. So it’s definitely a big part of my life.”