The Baltimore Ravens are preparing for their first game of the 2011 NFL season. Their fans are looking forward to regular season NFL football starting as yesterday was the last Sunday with no pro football through the rest of the year. However, next Sunday is different, it's not just the first game of the season, it's 'Steelers Week.'
To Ravens fans, 'Steelers Week' is the most "special" time of the NFL regular season. The Ravens will play eight home games in the 2011 regular season, including games hosting the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts. Both are key games on their schedule as the Jets and Colts are perennial playoff contenders and the connection to Jets head coach Rex Ryan and the legacy of the Colts "issue" make these games up there on the list of key games.
However, nothing comes close to 'Steelers Week,' as the rivalry between the teams and perhaps even more so, the fans, raises the stakes to a whole new level, especially when the game kicks off the regular season. The winner of this game sets the tone for the rest of the season and the fact that this is a Ravens home games puts even ore pressure on Baltimore to start off the season with a victory over their hated AFC North division rivals.
A win over Pittsburgh gives the Ravens the mental edge that they can play with and beat their nemesis who has ended their Super Bowl hopes two of the past three seasons. It also means that even if the Ravens lose the road game in Pittsburgh, they still have an equal chance to winning the division and perhaps even getting a home playoff game, which they have not had in their three consecutive seasons of making the post-season.
At the same time, while we prefer to not even think about it, a home loss to start the season will only confirm what Steelers fans constantly rub in our faces and what Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley so eloquently stated when he promised the Ravens and QB Joe Flacco would never win a Super Bowl "in our lifetime," meaning that the Steelers would never play second fiddle to the Ravens in this rivalry.
Until the Ravens beat the Steelers and not just in the home-and-home regular season series, meaning getting by them in the playoffs, this great rivalry, which is currently the best in the NFL, will continue to be one-sided in Pitsburgh's favor. This could all change in 2011 and the best opportunity to stop or at least slow down the trash talking from the "black and yellow" will come this Sunday starting at 1pm.