OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens (8-3) returned to practice Wednesday at 1 Winning Drive with their sights set fully on Sunday’s AFC North showdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3) at M&T Bank Stadium.
Wednesday’s media availability session had the feel of a true “rivalry week”, with much of the discussion around the building surrounding the nature of the rivalry.
“The hairs on your back grow when you get a Baltimore-Steelers type game” said LB Terrell Suggs. “This is definitely hands down the most physical game in the National Football League. That’s why everybody is so crazy about it.”
LB Ray Lewis said he expected the atmosphere Sunday night to be “crazy.” Lewis added, “it’s one of those games that you have to be a part of. When your legacy is done, you look back at these games right here.”
Pro Bowl RB Ray Rice said the rivalry is based in respect.
“That’s first and foremost about the Pittsburgh Steelers. We respect them. That’s what the rivalry is all about. I’ve learned that this rivalry has less talk involved in it. It’s more with your pads.”
Rice couldn’t hide from his excitement about the rivalry though, adding “these are moments that you live for.”
Since 2008 (the first season in Charm City for Head Coach John Harbaugh and QB Joe Flacco), the Steelers have won four of their six matchups with the Ravens, including one in the 2009 AFC Championship Game (both Pittsburgh losses have come without QB Ben Roethlisberger). Harbaugh said he expected “a tight game”, noting that the series was “about as close as it can get.”
(Harbaugh said he believed the Ravens had been outscored 77-76 over the six games, but the Ravens have actually been outscored 113-100 during the stretch.)
LB Jarret Johnson probably summed up the nature of the rivalry best.
“It’s just really intense. We know each other, we’ve been playing against each other for years. You’re familiar with the guy across from you. It’s just a super competitive, physical game. It’s a lot of fun.”
PRACTICE REPORT: Given the cold and rainy weather, the Ravens split practice time between their indoor facility and outdoor field. S Tom Zbikowski (foot) was again a participant in practice despite missing the Ravens’ Week 12 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Harbaugh said the Ravens were “confident (Zbikowksi) can go” Sunday, Zbikowski was not listed on the Wednesday injury report.
OT Michael Oher (knee) was also on the practice field after being forced to leave the Bucs game early. Oher told reporters Wednesday “I’m good” and “I definitely want to play.” Oher was listed as a full participant Wednesday.
OL Chris Chester (illness) returned to practice for the first time since being hospitalized November 18 with an infection stemming from cellulitis. Chester is expected to be available Sunday and was a full participant Wednesday.
FB Le’Ron McClain (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday and is not expected to be available Sunday. S Dawan Landry (head) was a limited participant Wednesday.
TE Ed Dickson (thigh) was a full participant in practice Wednesday after missing the Ravens’ win over the Buccaneers.
For the Steelers, S Troy Polamalu (ankle) and DE Aaron Smith (triceps) did not participate in practice Wednesday. OT Flozell Adams (back), DE Nick Eason (knee), CB Bryant McFadden (hamstring) and Roethlisberger (foot) were limited participants.
NOTES: Hear from Harbaugh, Lewis, Rice, Suggs, Oher, Johnson, Flacco and DT Haloti Ngata NOW in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault here at WNST.net……DT Arthur Jones will join Drew Forrester on “The Morning Reaction” Thursday at 7:15am on AM1570 WNST……Terry McAulay’s crew will officiate Sunday’s game……The Ravens began the process of putting playoff tickets on sale Wednesday……The Ravens will return to practice Thursday; coordinators Greg Mattison, Cam Cameron and Jerry Rosburg are scheduled to meet with the media