The Baltimore Ravens vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. That phrase alone usually means a lot of things. A fierce brawl, main event caliber fight. The names are incredible and have defined the play of this rivalry. Ray Lewis, Joey Porter, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Jamal Lewis, Jerome Bettis, Jonathan Ogden, the list goes on.
For the past decade, the NFL has transitioned into a passing, fantasy football type of game. Its all about who had the "sexiest" stats in this day and age of the NFL. But every time the Ravens and the Steelers met, it has been a reminder of an NFL game that was about physicality. It was a trip back to the old school style of football where it was about smash mouth, hardnosed football where these teams lined up and just said "Who's the better man today?" Ravens vs. Steelers was considered the NFL's best rivalry because it separated itself from the rest of the NFL, but does it still hold up in 2016?
While the games between these two teams are still incredibly close, things have happened in the last four or five years that have caused this rivalry to lose a bit of its luster. The players that I mentioned above are all retired. Other names are gone too like Ray Rice, Santonio Holmes, Ryan Clark and even Anquan Boldin, who is now currently playing for the Detroit Lions. Other rivalries have emerged like Patriots vs. Broncos, Bengals vs. Steelers, and even rivalries that lasted for a brief time like 49ers vs. Seahawks. The Ravens and the Steelers haven't helped themselves either with some mediocre play and seasons without making the playoffs in recent years. While the Steelers are a Super Bowl favorite right now and have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, they have only 1 playoff win over the last 5 years. The Ravens have been no better since winning the Super Bowl in 2012, missing the playoffs in two of the last three years. They have lost four games in a row and are looking at an uncertain future for many in the organization. Even the style of play from both these teams is changing. They are now both trying to adapt to this new NFL. The Steelers have succeeded at it, while the Ravens have failed.
Including the postseason, this Sunday will mark the 45th time the Ravens and the Steelers will line up against each other. Only this time, the matchup doesn't seem as evenly matched as previous years or have the same feel to it, even though this game puts first place in the AFC North on the line. It feels one-sided in favor of Pittsburgh even if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, another player who helped define this rivalry, doesn't play. Heck, there's a good chance M&T Bank Stadium becomes Heinz Field East with the way things are going. Maybe, just maybe, this once great rivalry has some juice left in it. Maybe it will be a perfect storm on Sunday afternoon as Roethlisberger plays, the Ravens are healthy and both teams play their best games of the season. Especially for the Ravens because they are going to have to play their best game of the season to have a shot.
No matter what, we'll find out Sunday afternoon in Baltimore. As the rivalry continues.
What do you guys think? Do you believe that the Ravens and the Steelers is still the NFL's best rivalry? Comment below and sound off.