The Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have met 23 times in the modern era of their rivalry — a period loosely defined as starting with the 2008 arrival of coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco in Baltimore — and little else but the colors on their jerseys have separated them.
The Steelers (1-1-1) have won 12 of the 23 meetings, including two of three playoff battles. The Ravens (2-1) have outscored them by a combined 11 points (480-469). The Steelers have won a Super Bowl. So have the Ravens. The Steelers have claimed five AFC North championships; they also lost to a Ryan Mallett-led Ravens team. No other division matchup has been decided by three or fewer points as often (13 games total) since 2008.
So, yeah, there’s something different about the Ravens’ Sunday night game at Heinz Field.
“You heard John say, ‘Once a Raven, always a Raven’?” defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said Thursday. “That is true — after you’ve played in the Pittsburgh game, because that’s when you get your badge of honor that ‘I’m a Raven.’ ”
With Sunday’s game set to introduce to the rivalry a number of new Ravens, from rookies Hayden Hurst and Kenny Young to free-agent signings Michael Crabtree and John Brown, there’s no better occasion to look back at the Steelers games where Ravens veterans earned their badges of honor.
QB Joe Flacco
Result: 23-20 overtime loss in Week 4
Recap: The Ravens couldn't hold on to a 13-3 third-quarter lead and fell for the seventh time in their past eight games in Pittsburgh.
After a 38-yard touchdown by Santonio Holmes drew the Steelers to within three, Flacco had the ball jarred loose on the Ravens' next play from scrimmage. Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley picked up the James Harrison-forced fumble and returned it for the go-ahead score.
The Ravens rallied to force overtime, where they won the opening coin toss, but Jeff Reed's 46-yard field goal ended the back-and-forth game.
"I was just trying to throw the ball away," Flacco, who finished 16-for-31 for 192 yards and one touchdown, said of the pivotal turnover. "If I take care of the ball, it's a different story."
CB Jimmy Smith
Result: 35-7 win in Week 1
Recap: With 20 new players on their 53-man roster, the Ravens delivered what remains their most lopsided win in series history.
But Smith couldn’t enjoy much of it. The first-round draft pick out of Colorado hurt his left ankle on the Ravens' first kickoff early in the first quarter, and he was unable to return until Week 7. (Perhaps appropriately, he recorded his first career tackle two weeks later on Steelers receiver Antonio Brown.)
The defense got by Pittsburgh just fine without him in that home opener, though. The Ravens forced seven turnovers, the most in franchise history, highlighted by safety Ed Reed's pair of interceptions and linebacker Ray Lewis' forced fumble and interception.
“This is the 2011 Baltimore Ravens,” Harbaugh said. “This is who we are, and now we're going to find what this football team is going to be about going forward."
Result: 13-10 win in Week 11
Recap: With Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu both sidelined by injuries, the Ravens turned to their defense and special teams to escape Pittsburgh with a win that cemented their hold on the AFC North.
The Ravens harassed Pittsburgh quarterback Byron Leftwich for much of the night, limiting him to 18-for-39 passing for 199 yards. Quarterback Joe Flacco and his offense weren’t any better, finishing with 200 total yards of offense.
But the eventual Super Bowl champions won the turnover battle (3-0) and got a 63-yard punt return score from Jacoby Jones and two field goals from Tucker for their third straight regular-season win in the series.
“It's never pretty in this game,” Harbaugh said. “I think it's the usual, right? Three-point spread? Isn't that what these usually are? We got a typical Pittsburgh-Baltimore game.”
ILB C.J. Mosley
Result: 26-6 win in Week 2
Recap: Four days after opening the season with a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals and three days after releasing running back Ray Rice, the Ravens put one of the franchise’s most chaotic weeks behind them with a prime-time win.
Making his second career start, Mosley finished with a team-high-tying 10 tackles for a defense that held Pittsburgh to two field goals and forced three turnovers. It was the first time since Nov. 26, 2006, that the Ravens held the Steelers without a touchdown.
"We was all about getting the win. We wanted to kind of give that to Ray," Mosley said. The team’s star running back had been indefinitely suspended after video surfaced of him striking his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City, N.J., casino.
"We all wish the best for him. Even though he messed up, every man got to go through their mistakes to get better. We wish him the best, but as a team we've just got to keep moving forward."
Result: 26-9 loss in Week 4
Recap: The Ravens followed their 44-7 loss in London to the Jacksonville Jaguars by returning to M&T Bank Stadium and getting booed.
The derision was partly because of several Ravens’ decision to kneel during the national anthem the week before, and partly because the offense played like the 32nd-ranked unit it entered the rivalry game as.
The Ravens were held scoreless over the first half, had only 154 yards entering the fourth quarter and finished with just one touchdown for the second straight game.
For Jefferson and the defense, Roethlisberger (216 yards passing for one touchdown and an interception) wasn't the problem. It was running back Le'Veon Bell, who finished with 144 yards rushing and 42 yards receiving.
“I think we’re just frustrated as a group,” safety Eric Weddle said. “Playing a good team, let alone any team, you have to play well to give yourself a chance. Collectively — offense, defense, special teams — we didn’t do that in the first half.”