It's one of the NFL most heated rivalries, and on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium the Steelers-Ravens rivalry will have a lot on the line.
Both teams need a win, and a little bit of help along the way, to earn a postseason spot.
The Steelers defeated the Ravens, 20-19, in their Week 13 meeting at Heinz Field. This game will be filled with plenty of emotion, especially with it likely being Ben Roethlisberger's last regular season game.
The Ravens talked about the rivalry, Roethlisberger, Najee Harris, T.J. Watt and a whole lot more.
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Coach John Harbaugh on the players being what makes the Steelers-Ravens rivalry special:
"It's always about the players and the players playing the game and the competitive nature of these two teams. When I got here, you watch it from afar before that, then you come in and you actually stand on the sidelines and you see the intensity of it. You talk about the players that have been involved. I think about trying to cut off their four eyes, they're out-front defensive ends over the years, and it's almost impossible to get it done. It's something that defines who they are, and who their defense has been for probably 50 years. Guys who have done that. And the inside linebackers they play with. The intensity, aggressiveness of the secondary and pressure packages. (Troy) Polamalu epitomizes something like that. And you talk about their offensive lines, the physicality of their offensive lines. On offense it's the receivers, the playmakers, the big plays that they've been able to make. And then you've got physicality in the run game.
"But for me it's Ben (Roethlisberger). He's been the guy that's the straw that stirred the drink there for almost two decades. For 14 years for me trying to figure out a way to stop him and slow him down and have him not make the plays has been very defining.
"I think the players, those are the Pittsburgh guys, we've got our guys that have gone against them and I'm very proud of and it's honor to have been associated with. It's a pretty special thing."
Wide receiver Jimmy Smith on his fondest memory of Ben Roethlisberger:
"'Big Ben' and just the moments. He's just kicked our butts numerous amounts of times, and we've had some good games against him. But one game that stands out the most for me was obviously when I got two picks, but one didn't count, when Courtney (Upshaw) jumped offsides or whatever it was, and I had that taken back. But great rivalry, great competitor. (They're) never out of the game, (he was) always trying to make plays until the last second. But I guess that's something huge that I'll always remember about him – is just how tough of a competitor (he is). And the game is never over with that guy, until the last, final whistle blows."
Harbaugh on any memories of Roethlisberger, plays that stand out:
"I had a lot of them. Right now, I really don't want to go down memory lane on that. A lot of plays where you feel like you've been gut punched, where he'll scramble out to the left, usually in the red zone and find somebody open. I remember those plays. Or he'll hit somebody on the sideline, 22 yards downfield, tippy toe out of bounds for a huge first down completion or something like that. I remember all those plays. The focus right now is this game. We need to focus on this game and I'm trying to do that as well."
Defensive coordinator Don Martindale on Roethlisberger and the possibility this is his final game:
"We all know with Ben, I'm not sure it's going to be his final time. Who knows with Ben, because he's – and let me expand on that, too, now – he's like 'The Terminator.' You think about in the history of this game, of this rivalry, how many times he's been hit, and you can picture him – his fans, his writers, his coaches. What they don't show is him getting up and playing the next play or playing the next series. Like, I really think … That's why I said, I think he's like 'The Terminator.' It's unbelievable – his resiliency and his toughness. If there's a Ring of Fame for this game, he's definitely on it, and people … It's a credit to him, with all the great players they've had there in the past, that he's going to be mentioned, probably, first or in that Top 5 of players that they've had there throughout all these years. So, he's a great competitor. [I've got] nothing but respect for him. Even this year, supposedly, his last year, they're No. 2 in the NFL in scoring points in the fourth quarter. I think [in] the Minnesota game, if the tight end holds onto the ball, that would have been 35 points in the fourth quarter alone. So, it's crazy how well he's played for all these years and how tough he is. And like I said, there's nothing but respect for Ben."
Defensive tackle Calais Campbell won what has made Roethlisberger such a worthy competitor:
"I think it's that he's just a competitor. When the game is on the line, I think that's when he's at his best. I've played against him quite a few times, and I feel like he's had a lot of up and down moments. We've had some games where we picked him off, I think, four times, and there's games where he lit us up. But I feel like no matter what, no matter what happened in the game, when the game was on the line, he was at his best. My first time going against him was the Super Bowl – we lost, and he won. That still breaks my heart every time I think about it. But you've got to give him his respect. He's a legend in the game. And I've always appreciated playing against true competitors – guys I respect and admire – and on the football field, he's one of the greatest to ever do it. It's always good going against another person that I feel like is a legend in the game."
Harbaugh on T.J. Watt and why he is having so much success this season and so close to the NFL single-season sack record:
"To me he may be the best defensive player in football. There's a lot of great players in this league but none better than him, evidence being the sack record for sure. Got to know him. We loved him coming out in the draft. Of course, when he went to Pittsburgh it wasn't something that we celebrated here. I liked him so much at Wisconsin and then he's done nothing but fulfill and I think go further than maybe expectations were. Got to know him a little bit at the Pro Bowl a couple years ago and really, really loved being around him. Was just so impressed with his demeanor toward the game. How seriously he took it, how hard he worked, what it meant to him. I loved his competitiveness in that game.
"But I've seen it at a whole different level in our games and on tape. He's really hard to block. I can tell you that he goes all the time, 1,000 miles an hour, and he's got a bevy of moves and he's very talented, very powerful, very quick. He understands their defense inside and out. Is well-coached. We just got to try to find a way to keep him a little bit under control if we can, and that's a tall task."
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman on if there are any special plans to prevent T.J. Watt from tying the NFL single-season sack record:
"That's a challenge. I think everybody has had special plans for him going into the game. That's a fact, really. And you better, because if you don't, he's really going to eat you up. I think, what, he had four sacks the other night? So, we're definitely going to pay special attention to him. He's a very, very productive player. He plays hard, knows how to play the game, knows angles [and] knows how to create angles. He has a really good move set with his hands, really good head fakes, et cetera. He's just a really talented, good football player that is having an amazing season. So, I think we'll be up to the challenge. It will be a challenge; it always is with him. And then No. 56 (Alex Highsmith), on the other edge, he's really improving as a pass rusher, and Cam Heyward is always a force to be reckoned with. We have our work cut out for us, but we're definitely going to pay some special attention to him."
Smith on the Steelers-Ravens rivalry and if Terrell Suggs coming back as the Ravens' Legend of the Game adds anything to the game:
"When I came here originally, that's the first team we talked about, because it does matter. It's a red dot game. It's the Steelers. But the culture here before, it was just how they talked about the rivalry coming in and how they spoke of it to the rookies. You're not even a Raven until you make a play against the Steelers. So, it was just like we put them up here, (raises his hand to the top of his head) because that's the team in our division that we looked at as our clash. That's who we had to go against. So, I think over the years, it's become such a big game. Coming into it, you want to just keep that juice flowing and that rivalry going. I don't know, it's just one of those games in the NFL that everybody is going to click on whether they like to watch football or not."
Smith on what it is about the Steelers that makes it such a strong rivalry:
"I truly believe it's because it was two physical defenses, probably the best defenses back in the day. You had Ray Lewis, and they had (Troy) Polamalu. You had all these guys and these great names on those two teams. The one thing that never escapes this game is physicality. Every team is not the same, but in the AFC North, there are going to be some physical games. I think that Steelers-Ravens is the most physical game, because there's never a time where we don't leave that game bruised and beat up pretty good."
Smith on if it feels like the end of an era in the Steelers-Ravens rivalry with Roethlisberger likely retiring:
"Definitely. When 'Sizz' (Terrell Suggs) left, it was kind of an end of an era, because Roethlisberger and 'Sizz' are more in their age group coming in. There are only a couple guys left that Ben has even played against numerous times on our squad. I wouldn't say it's the end of the rivalry era, but it's definitely the end of those big-name guys, and it has to start anew. I think the Steelers rivalry will always remain the most physical game in the AFC North."
Harbaugh on what he sees from Najee Harris and if there are any changes since the first time the teams met:
"I don't see it's being too different. I think he's still a really, really excellent back. He's young, he's strong, he's big, he's got really good elusiveness for his size. He's got the combination of elusiveness and power. He's also fast. He can catch the ball. Does a good job in pass protection. Everything you expect from a high pick like that and highly touted guy coming out and they they're using them very well. So, we got our hands full and try to keep him under control if we can."
Harbaugh on how to keep Harris in check:
"You have to do a great job against a very devoted, determined run game. They want to run the ball. Obviously, he's a great back, but they have other backs. They have two other backs who are very physical, downhill guys, but Najee Harris is one of the great young backs in this league, I believe. He's big. He's physical. He knows how to make you miss. He's elusive. He got some yards on us in the fourth quarter last time, that we weren't real happy about that made a difference in the game. So, we study that real closely. We have to play well at the point of attack. We have to be good on the edges, frontside, backside. He will bounce it outside if you give him the opportunity to do it. He'll cut it all the way back. He runs the zone scheme, especially the inside zone scheme, really well. They may run a little stretch or run a little toss with pullers and crackers and things like that. They'll run their power play that they've been running forever and ever. He's good at all those plays, but especially the RPOs. The gun zone, inside zone RPOs are kind of what they're leaning on and living on right now, and he's really good at it. So, we're just going to have to be ready for it, and we're going to have to win up front."
Harbaugh on Coach Mike Tomlin:
"I have had just a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Tomlin. I didn't really know him early on. We're about eight or nine years apart, but we kind of sort of took a similar path. When I left Cincinnati and went to Indiana and then a year later I was in the NFL, he went to Cincinnati. I was there for eight years, and he was there for one year. He was more talented, and he moved right into the NFL. We ended up in the NFL right around the same time. Even though he's younger, we ended up as head coaches kind of just a year apart also. He beat me to the punch, and it was well-deserved. He's really one of the great coaches in football. It's a great organization, but the culture is his. He's the guy that organizes the building. He organizes the approach. He organized the interactions. He puts it all together, and he's responsible for it all. I think his imprint is on that team; it has been, and it will continue to be. It's a big challenge going against a great coach like that. I admire him, respect him, like him personally, but would really like to find a way to win a game here. So, he's gotten a couple here in a row. They have done a great job the last three times we played them; we need to step up."