Even if you don't root for either of these teams, when they're on the tube, football fans everywhere tune in for an example of what real, old school football is really like. Hard hitting, violent action defines this rivalry and records or stats don't matter when these two teams face each other. First off, the players seem to dislike each other as much as their fan base does, as especially evidenced by the comments in the posts on both SB Nation sites when they come up on the schedule. The Pittsburgh Steelers SB Nation site, Behind The Steel Curtain, has a huge and loyal following who travel to other teams' site as well as their fans do to opponents' stadiums around the league. Conversely, Baltimore Beatdown has a passionate following that knows their football pretty well and can talk smack with any other teams' fans in the league as well.
The fact that this game has playoff implications for both teams is a plus to the tenseness of the game, but that really doesn't matter. These two teams would probably agree to meet in a sandlot and play without pads if they could. They don't care about the weather, the stats, the cameras (well they probably do care about the cameras), they just want to get out there and hit someone. Some of the most vicious hits I've ever seen in a football game have come from these games. Who won't soon forget the hit that Bart Scott put on Ben Roethlisberger that Big Ben says was the hardest he's ever been hit. Same for the shot that Hines Ward gave to Ed Reed, Ray Lewis to Rashard Mendenhall, Limas Sweed to Corey Ivy and Ryan Clark to Willis McGahee. You could keep listing other ones that made you wince when you saw and heard them live, and that doesn't include what must be going on in the trenches and the scrums after tackles.
There are other rivalries in the NFL but most of them are based on long standing history, not the specific hard hitting action that this one thrives on. The NFC East has some good rivalries and great fans, but are they the equal of the Ravens/Steelers right now? Nothing comparable in the NFC North, despite the switching of allegiance of Brett Favre from Green Bay to Minnesota. The NFC South or West? Uhhh, no. Over in the AFC, the Raiders/Chiefs was a great one, but the key word is "was." San Diego/Denver isn't even close and nothing else there is worth mentioning. The AFC South's teams haven't been around long enough to warrant inclusion in this discussion even with the hated Indianapolis Colts there. Over in the AFC East, there are some good rivalries between the New York Jets, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins (sorry Buffalo) but nothing to compare.
So that makes this weekend's Ravens game in Pittsburgh the best of not only the weekend, but perhaps the best of the season. Hopefully the game will live up to the hype, which it usually does, but nevertheless, it will have all the action, hitting and trash talking in advance of Sunday- and that is just with the fans!