Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rivalry Remix Ravens Not in Playoff Hunt, but Intensity Won't Lag Sunday

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rivalry Remix Ravens Not in Playoff Hunt, but Intensity Won't Lag Sunday

Article excerpt

The series between the Steelers and Ravens will conclude its 20th season Sunday in Baltimore with a game unlike most any other between these teams.

What often is a December game to remember might be one they would like to forget in Baltimore, where the Ravens have lost many of their front-line players to injuries, lost three games in a row to go 4-10 and are the biggest underdogs they have ever been to the Steelers.

The NFL even delivered a slap in the face by taking this one down from its premier television prime-time slot Sunday night and hiding it in the 1 p.m. kickoff cycle.

What once was one of the premier matchups in the NFL has been reduced to the Steelers trying to clinch a wild-card playoff berth and the Ravens trying to avoid tying the worst record in their history, 4-12, in their inaugural 1996 seasons.

But that in itself could give this game some oomph, because the Ravens do not plan to go down meekly and would enjoy nothing more than to drag the Steelers into the offseason with them - sans playoffs.

"It's a rivalry game, so we know it's going to be a gritty, nasty game," said Baltimore receiver Kamar Aiken. "We're looking forward to it.

"It means something just to beat Pittsburgh, period. If we can sweep them for the year, that's big for us - just period - because of the rivalry in itself. That'll be an extra bonus if we can knock them out, too."

The Steelers can clinch a wild-card playoff spot Sunday with a win in Baltimore and a New England Patriots win against the New York Jets in another 1 p.m. start. They also can clinch with wins in Baltimore and next Sunday in Cleveland, no matter what anyone else does.

If, however, the Ravens upset them, it could open the door for the Jets.

"It's always a great rivalry, and we're having a tough year," Ravens guard Marshal Yanda said. "But that doesn't change things as far as us wanting to go in and win the football game at all costs. We're going to give them our best and try to beat them just because we want to beat them. Obviously, it will hurt their playoff chances .

"We're not in the playoffs. It's a different scenario, but it's still going to be a battle out there, and we're still going to be fighting our tails off. …

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