Now double them.
That’s an indication of what to expect when the Ravens face their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the AFC Championship game on Sunday.
“It’s two football teams that play a certain brand of football. It’s physical football, it’s fundamental, it’s a very disciplined style of football,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “It’s going to be a physical match, just like we had last week. That’s the beauty of the NFL.”
Baltimore’s 13-10 win over the Titans last Saturday was hardly a work of art. Rarely did a series go by without an injured player being helped off the field, and almost every tackle was punctuated by an extra shove or a verbal assault.
Expect more of the same, and then some, when two AFC North foes square off for the third time this season.
“If you want to go to the Super Bowl, who else would you rather it be but the Pittsburgh Steelers?” Ravens linebacker Bart Scott said. “It’s an opportunity for one organization to build up the level of hatred for the other organization. Somebody is going to be happy, somebody is going to be hurt. What other team would you rather do it to?”
Let the rhetoric begin.
The Steelers won both of the previous games, 23-20 in overtime and 13-9. Revenge is part of Baltimore’s motivation, but mostly it’s about keeping alive an improbable playoff run in which the wild-card Ravens victimized the third-seeded Miami Dolphins and top-seeded Titans.
“What’s on the line? It’s just the Super Bowl,” Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason said. “They’re going to get our best and we’re going to get their best. It’s been that way both times we played them. They know what type of ballgame it might be.”
The Ravens were battered and tired after defeating Tennessee. Cornerback Samari Rolle left with a groin injury and linebacker Terrell Suggs missed a portion of the second half with a strained right shoulder. Both received medical treatment Monday, and their status for Sunday’s game was uncertain.
“Samari has a chance to get back there. We’ll see what happens as the week goes on,” Harbaugh said.
Suggs had an MRI on his shoulder Monday. He guaranteed that he would be available for the Steelers, but Harbaugh cautioned, “It’s going to be close.”
Even those who got out of the Tennessee game without injury were feeling the effects Sunday.
“I was recovering from my game, so I was in and out of consciousness a lot during the day,” Scott said, explaining why he didn’t see much of Pittsburgh’s 35-24 win over San Diego.
Most of the Ravens who watched the game were pulling for the Steelers.
“You have to appreciate the way they play. I love the way they play,” Scott said. “You want to play the best, and I think they are the best right now. You want the opportunity to prove yourself against the best. You want to test yourself. We look forward to it. We didn’t want to go to San Diego.”
If Baltimore’s game against Tennessee was a preliminary bout, then this is the main event between two heavyweights.
“You have two teams that try to impose their will on each other,” Scott said. “When you have two teams that are evenly matched, both sides want to make you pay the price on the body. Nobody’s running or ducking.”
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs told a syndicated radio show Oct. 17 the team had a bounty on Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall and receiver Hines Ward for the Sept. 29 game, a 23-20 overtime win for the Steelers.
Suggs, a former Arizona State star, later backtracked, saying, “there wasn’t any bounty.” Mendenhall sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in the game. DID YOU KNOW?
Since the 1997 season, the Steelers have played three AFC title games at home and lost all three: 1997 (Broncos, 24-21), 2001 (Patriots, 24-17) and 2004 (Patriots, 41-27).