OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Baltimore coach John Harbaugh shared a message that was passed along to young Ravens about the rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
“One of the things that was said in the meetings today was that you’re not a Raven until you beat the Steelers,” Harbaugh said. “We have some young guys that still need to beat the Steelers.”
Baltimore’s rookies will get their chance on Sunday when the Ravens and Steelers renew their rivalry. There will be a lot of new faces, especially for the Steelers, who are missing injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“No matter who is playing,” Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley said, “this rivalry is going to be one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports.”
Baltimore (2-2) is mired in a two-game skid and its vaunted defense has allowed more than 500 yards in each of those setbacks. The secondary has been burned for several big plays of 50 yards or more.
The Ravens defense should get a boost with the return of defensive tackle Brandon Williams, who missed the previous game against Cleveland with a knee injury. Harbaugh anticipates the entire defense playing better.
“We expect to be at the top of the heap in the defensive world,” Harbugh said. “We’ll do everything we can to get back there. I think the world champs [Patriots] did it last year. That’s our ambition. That’s our goal.”
The Steelers (1-3) opened the season with three consecutive losses before dominating the Cincinnati Bengals 27-3 in Week 4.
Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph has replaced the injured Roethlisberger and has thrown for 515 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. The Ravens, ranked 23rd in the league with eight sacks, will try to pressure Rudolph into making mistakes.
“It’s the same offense,” Harbaugh said. “The Steelers have a big playbook so they have a lot of different directions they can go. They’re going to come up with ideas to do whatever they need to do to move the ball, to try and score points, to try and win a game. [Rudolph] is a young quarterback. He has a lot of talent.”
While Baltimore’s defense has struggled, its running attack has been stellar _ ranking first in the NFL averaging 205.8 yards per game.
Mark Ingram, who was signed as a free agent from New Orleans this offseason, leads the Ravens with 328 yards on 55 carries with five touchdowns. Quarterback Lamar Jackson has also been solid scrambling out of the pocket and has 238 yards on 36 carries with a touchdown. Baltimore two other running backs — second-year player Gus Edwards and rookie Justice Hill — capable of making plays.
Jackson will be making his first start in Pittsburgh. Last season, he was the backup behind Joe Flacco in a 26-14 victory at Heinz Field and a 23-16 setback in Baltimore.
He is looking forward to the atmosphere highlighted by the Steelers fans waving their gold “Terrible Towels” and the team’s theme song “Renegade” by the band Styx blaring over the speakers.
The Ravens players and coaches expect a typical hard-fought matchup in the 51st all-time meeting between the teams, including four games in the playoffs.
The Steelers lead the series 28-22.
“There was a time when they were saying it wasn’t a rivalry, if I recall,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s a rivalry. I’ve always felt that way. I have the utmost respect for them. This is an important game and we’re looking forward to playing them.”
While there appears to be mutual respect among the Ravens and Steelers, their rivalry has a history of hard hits, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and even a confrontation between Ray Lewis and Joey Porter that spilled onto a parking lot after a game.
Linebacker Pernell McPhee was part of those games when he played for the Ravens from 2011-2014. McPhee left Baltimore to sign with the Bears and had a stint in Washington before resigning with the Ravens in the offseason.
McPhee views the rivalry much different than some of the younger players.
“We hate each other,” Pernell McPhee said. “I know for sure we hate them. We respect them as men. That’s just how it is. That’s the blood between the teams. It’s like, I guess, God versus the devil. Me, personally, I don’t care too much for them.”
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