Have the Baltimore Ravens played the way we have been accustomed to seeing them play for most of the last 20 years? No. Have the Ravens lacked somewhat of an identity over the last two years? Yes. But just because the Ravens are not playing up to par right now, it doesn’t mean that the rivalry that the team has with the Pittsburgh Steelers is gone or that is has taken a step back.
Winning isn’t the only thing that makes a rivalry. Winning is a big factor and it is a factor that separates the best rivalries from others, but it is not the only factor. The level of disdain one side has for the other, the emotions riding on the game and the physical nature plays a role too.
There’s a reason why there’s a saying in rivalries that you need to, “throw out the records.” If winning is the only thing that matters in a rivalry, then the Green Packers vs. the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Washington Redskins stopped being rivalries a long time ago. The Bears have struggled to win for decades and both the Cowboys and Redskins have not reached a conference championship game in over 20 seasons.
The Ravens and the Steelers have a genuine rivalry in the sense that it doesn’t matter who plays, it is going to be a tight fight to the end. There have been times where the Ravens have beaten the Steelers with Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright, Troy Smith and Ryan Mallett at quarterback. There have been times where the Steelers beat the Ravens with Charlie Batch and Tommy Maddox at quarterback.
Since December of 2007, 16 out of the last 20 meetings (including playoffs) between these two teams have been decided by seven points or less.
Since 1999, the series between the Ravens and the Steelers is tied at 19-19 including the playoffs with both teams winning two Super Bowl trophies each during that time frame.
The AFC North is the only division in the NFL over the last 20 years to have two teams winning two Super Bowl trophies each. Does any of this look like a rivalry that is fading away anytime soon? The fact that the Ravens finished 5-11 last season and still swept the Steelers should tell some doubters that this rivalry is far from over.
The odd thing about this discussion is that some of the same people who think that the Ravens vs. Steelers rivalry is done because both sides need to win are the same people who think that the Steelers vs. Bengals rivalry is one of, if not the best in the NFL.
If winning matters, then the Steelers vs. Bengals rivalry can’t be that great as the Bengals have gone almost 30 years without winning a playoff game.
The Steelers and the Bengals do a lot of yelling at each other and cheap shots are delivered from both sides. Those extra curricular activities don’t create a rivalry. It only creates a lack of respect for one another because when you set out to injure another player, that goes beyond football which has nothing to do with wins and losses. Those issues are personal from the standpoint that another player is trying to threaten or end someone’s career.
At the end of the day, one of the best attributes to a rivalry is the unpredictable result. And for those of us who have been watching the Ravens and the Steelers battle each other over two decades, the only thing to expect is the unexpected.