By Teresa Varley
When it comes to knowing your opponent, there might not be anyone out there that the Steelers are more familiar with than the Baltimore Ravens, a team they play twice a year in the AFC North and have developed a healthy rivalry with. "We know what they can do, it's just a matter of stopping them," said running back Willie Parker. "It's a plus for both teams. We face each other every year."
Some look at it knowing your opponent as an advantage, some a disadvantage because the opponent knows you as well. For tackle Willie Colon, it's a toss up.
"It's all about what you make it," said tackle Willie Colon. "There are no secrets. They know what we are going to do and we know what they are going to do. We play each other enough where it's pretty much rolling the ball out and going after each other. It's going to be a good one "
The Steelers and Ravens have plenty of respect for each other, but to put it nicely, they really don't like each other on the field. And that is going to make Sunday's AFC Championship game, the game with the most on the line ever between the two teams, that much more intense.
"Somebody's going to be mad after this one," said linebacker James Farrior. "This one's going to sit a little bit longer than these other divisional games. It's going to be a big one. It's going to raise the level. I think Bart Scott said 'It's going to raise the level of hatred between the two teams,' and I believe that too."
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Ravens head coach John Harbaugh had words of praise for Ben Roethlisberger, who went to the same college as Harbaugh, Miami of Ohio.
"He's different than a lot of quarterbacks because he's big and strong, and he's fearless," said Harbaugh. "And he can throw the ball on time. He can hold the ball. He can scramble and make plays on the run. He's probably the most accurate quarterback on the run in the league right now. There are just a lot of things to defend with Ben. He's smart. As we've said before, he went to a great university. That's no surprise."
The Ravens have not had a break since the second week of the season, forced to give up their scheduled bye week because of Hurricane Ike, but offensive tackle Willie Colon doesn't think that will have any impact on them on Sunday.
"I think it's mental for them," said Colon. "They understand they are one game away from going to the Super Bowl so it's not going to be a factor. They understand if they beat us they are going to be in the show. It's not about being hurt; it's not about being tired. It's going to be a fight."
The Steelers are in the AFC Championship game for the third time since 2004 and for those who have been there for all three they think it's a testament to the organization.
"You have a lot of carry over," said tackle Max Starks. "There isn't a high turnover rate. You have a lot of veterans who were drafted here. That says a lot for the team, it says a lot for the organization. We are a close unit because we have been around each other for years. It means a lot. We are used to each other."
Having played the toughest schedule in the NFL this year has definitely prepared the Steelers for the challenges they are facing in the post-season.
"We heard we had the toughest schedule and that we wouldn't win many games," said Parker. "We worked hard starting in training camp and now we are in the AFC Championship game.
"We went into each game like this could be our last game," said Parker. "We had that back against the wall mentality every game. We knew every game could make us or break us. That's how we felt."
The Steelers played six playoff teams during the regular season, including two of their opponents in the post-season – San Diego and Baltimore.
"It just let's you know you can't win games on paper," said Davis. "They said we had the toughest schedule and it would be hard for us to battle through this season. But you have to go out and play every Sunday. Fortunately enough we have been the better team most Sundays."