The NFL released the 2013 schedule yesterday, revealing a number of intriguing primetime matchups for the Ravens, including opening night in Denver, a Monday Night game in Detroit followed by a Sunday Night AFC Championship rematch with the Patriots at home, as well as a Thanksgiving Night clash with the arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers. The game against Pittsburgh is the one that intrigues me the most, mostly due to the myriad of roster changes that each team has undergone and the nationwide skepticism surrounding both teams.
Bruce Raffel posted an article Wednesday morning in which he addressed the possibility of fading national interest in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, a rivalry which has been as competitive and fun to watch as any over the last decade. However, the rise of a new "black and blue" division over in the NFC West in combination with the losses of some star power in both Pittsburgh and Baltimore has somewhat put this rivalry on the back-burner entering the 2013 season. The teams, however, will have a chance to show the country that this rivalry is still going as strong as ever when they face off in a primetime Week 13 matchup on Thanksgiving. While the absences of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Anquan Boldin, James Harrison, Mike Wallace, and number of other familiar faces will be hard to ignore, I expect both teams to bring the same intensity and hard-nosed mentality to the field that we have seen in previous years. Both the Ravens and Steelers have been models of consistency in the NFL for the past decade and while there are doubters, I expect both teams to be in the thick of the playoff hunt come Week 13. By that point, both rosters will have had plenty of time to gel and get into rhythm with all of their new personnel, don't be surprised if this game has heavy implications on the AFC North title race once again.