Moments after the Baltimore Ravens trounced the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first game of the season, Terrell Suggs' face broke into a mischievous smile.
Three times Suggs had decked elusive Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for sacks, forcing a pair of fumbles in the Ravens' 35-7 victory in September, and the Pro Bowl outside lineabcker wasn't done inflicting punishment.
Afterward, Suggs rubbed a little verbal salt in his wounds.
"God can have his soul," Suggs said, "but his ass belongs to me."
Months later, the accuracy of Suggs' remarks still stand.
"You all know the numbers," Suggs said. "There's nobody who can do it better than me. It's going to be fun. I'm pretty sure that they'll have something in store to make sure I don't have a day, but I love being the bad guy. Whatever they're going to do, we're going to act accordingly."
Suggs has recorded 15 1/2 career sacks against Roethlisberger, including the playoffs, for the most of any NFL player against one of the sturdiest, most difficult to tackle quarterbacks in the league.
During the Ravens' AFC divisional playoff loss against the Steelers last January at Heinz Field, Suggs had three sacks and a forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Now, Suggs and the Ravens (5-2) are preparing to square off with the Steelers (6-2) again in Pittsburgh with first place in the AFC North on the line Sunday night.
And Suggs has no intentions of lowering the volume or his intensity as the Ravens resume their blood rivalry with the Steelers.
"We know it's going to be a fight," Suggs said. "They already declared war on us. We're taking 53 men into the apocalypse and we ain't bringing flowers."
That last sentence was Suggs, a noted movie buff who owns an independent Maryland film company, adapting a line from the film, "The Jacket," a psychological thriller about a war veteran.
For Suggs, there is no bigger stage than going on the road to Pittsburgh.
"We have been declared war upon, we are the enemy of the state," Suggs said. "This is my Madison Square Garden" he said. "I love playing in this stadium. I love the way the people treat me, the welcoming they give me with the No. 1's. I guarantee you the NFL, the world, will stop for this game, and everybody wants to see it. We will be ready, and we will act accordingly. Like I said, there is the Super Bowl and then there is Ravens-Steelers. Everybody will be watching this game."
In 17 career games against the Steelers, Suggs has practically been unblockable.
He has registered 81 career tackles, one interception, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries during the regular season.
And Suggs is well aware that the Steelers have one thing on their minds Sunday night as the two AFC powerhouses clash again: payback.
"They are definitely going to have some, ‘Let's get after them' to their game," he said. "In hindsight, who knocked us out of the playoffs last year? In 2008, a certain team beat us to go to the Super Bowl and danced all over the field, held up the AFC Championship trophy. We had to sit by and watch that. It's a little salt on the wounds on both sides.
"Ray Rice says, ‘So we aren't going to have to see them again.' I disagree. We are definitely going to have to see these guys again. But, every team has that. Peyton Manning had to go through New England. [LeBron] James has to go through Boston. [Michael] Jordan had to go through the Pistons. We are definitely going to have to see them again, especially to achieve what we want to achieve."
And Suggs couldn't resist calling out injured Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, who missed the Steelers' last game against the New England Patriots with an ankle injury and was limited in practice Wednesday.
Ward has a history of confrontations with the Ravens, usually getting the best of his collisions with them in the past with a series of vicious crackback blocks except for the first meeting this year where he was roughed up by linebacker Jarret Johnson and strong safety Bernard Pollard.
"I'm looking right at you 86. I need you to play," Suggs said. "Please put on that 86, that smile and all the things you do. We need all that for this this game
In the past, Suggs has donned T-shirts with a Raven flipping off the Steelers and another expressing his hate for Pittsburgh.
Now, he's ready for one more game against the archrival Steelers.
"I am expecting traditional smash-mouth, punches, I am expecting it to be very physical," Suggs said. "This is a heavyweight fight. Like I said, who better for the job than us, the bad guy?
Ravens notebook: Offense preparing for uncertain Pittsburgh defense
The Baltimore Ravens are understandably wary when the subject of the Pittsburgh Steelers' injury-riddled defense is broached.
Until they see Steelers star linebackers James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior officially ruled out for Sunday night's AFC North showdown, the Ravens are preparing as if they'll be on the field.
"Who knows?" guard Marshal Yanda said. "Whoever's out there, we've got to be prepared to block them. Injuries happen in football, but they have some good backups. Their backups will be ready to play if they're called to go out there."
Harrison announced earlier this week that he won't be cleared to play this week due to a broken orbital bone. Woodley has a pulled hamstring, and Farrior has a torn calf muscle.
However, all of them practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. They're all regarded as questionable, at best.
"Those guys are loads to handle, they're definitely a big part of their defense," offensive tackle Michael Oher said. "If they don't play, they're still a great defense. They're deep."
Known for drafting well, especially on defense, the Steelers have solid depth behind their starting linebackers. And defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is known for his crafty, complex schemes and an unpredictable nature with his blitz packages.
"I don't think it changes anything," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They play the same defense. If they're not in there, they'll put other guys in there. They'll be playing the same positions, they'll just have different numbers.
"We'll have to block them just as well, and they'll be very good players. If it's those guys wearing those numbers, we'll have to block those guys. And that's really how you look at it."
The Steelers have recorded 20 sacks. However, nine of them are from Woodley.
The Ravens are even wondering if LeBeau might run some 4-3 alignments instead of his traditional 3-4 base defense since he's shorthanded at linebacker.
Among the Steelers' options, they could shift defensive end Brett Keisel to outside linebacker and have rookie Cameron Heyward take over for him at defensive end or run a four-man front with Chris Hoke and Casey Hampton at defensive tackle with Keisel and Ziggy Hood at defensive end.
Plus, the Steelers have a lot of flexibility with linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin suggested that the Steelers could also run a 4-2 set.
"We are very multiple defensively, usually in response to offensive packages, but, sometimes, your personnel may dictate otherwise," Tomlin told Pittsburgh reporters. "I am just saying that, at this juncture, we are open to all potential possibilities in terms of dealing with our situations and that we are not going to go grasping at straws outside of our building in terms of addressing it."
So, the Ravens will need to be ready for more than the Steelers' traditional 3-4 grouping.
"Who knows what you're going to get?" center Matt Birk said. "They haven't missed a beat. They play good football, winning football. The guys are good players, and they pose a huge challenge for us."
GRUBBS RETURNS: Left offensive guard Ben Grubbs returned to practice today, albeit on a limited basis.
Grubbs hasn't played in a game since the season opener against the Steelers due to a painful right turf toe.
Grubbs attempted to return to practice a few weeks ago, but suffered a setback when his injured toe got stepped on.
It's an encouraging sign that Grubbs practiced, but he's not a lock to play this week unless he can string together more than one practice in a row without any issues.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Lee Evans (left ankle) didn't practice again.
Evans hasn't played since the second game of the season and has been replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Torrey Smith.
Also not practicing: linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstrings, groin), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (thigh) and wide receiver David Reed (knee).
Ngata's injury isn't believed to be serious.
Running back Anthony Allen (hamstring), Birk (neck) and cornerback Danny Gorrer (thigh) were limited.
Not practicing for the Steelers: wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee) and offensive guard Doug Legursky (toe).
Offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (ankle) and wide receiver Hines Ward (ankle) were limited.
JONES SIGNED: Former Ravens outside linebacker Edgar Jones was signed following a Wednesday morning physical to take over the roster spot of linebacker Prescott Burgess.
Burgess was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Jones had played for the Ravens for four seasons, operating at both tight end and linebacker for 31 games before joining the Washington Redskins during the offseason. He'll play special teams for the Ravens on Sunday and operate as a reserve outside linebacker.
Cut after training camp by the Redskins, Jones was eager to rejoin his old teammates.
"It's a good feeling, I always felt like this was home for me," said Jones, who made the Ravens' roster as an undrafted rookie in 2007. "Of course when the guys saw me back they welcomed me and talked trash to me. That's their way of giving me a hug. I feel like it's my first girlfriend."
The Ravens allowed an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown to Arizona Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson a week ago.
"Special teams is just like getting back on the bicycle," said Jones, who recorded 19 special-teams tackles two seasons ago. "With special teams, there's really no room for error. You only get so many plays. You have to make sure every single play you dominate."
WEBB SAYS BROWN IS BETTER THAN WALLACE: Perhaps Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb is tired of being asked about Steelers star wide receiver Mike Wallace or he just has a long memory of how Antonio Brown got behind him to set up the game-winning score for Pittsburgh in the Ravens' playoff loss last January.
Either way, Webb says Brown is the superior player to Wallace.
"Every time somebody asks me, they're always talking about Mike Wallace," Webb said. "But they have a guy in No. 84, Antonio Brown, who's better than 17 in all aspects of the game. A great returner, a great wide receiver."
Ward has caught 43 passes for 800 yards and five touchdowns while Brown has 34 catches for 431 yards, averaging 12.1 yards per punt return and 28.9 yards per kickoff return.
Webb took a shot at Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, who's limited with an ankle injury.
"Yeah, very dangerous without Hines. I guess Hines slows them down," Webb said. "Nah, just playing. Hines makes those guys. He's molded those guys into him, the same attitude."
RELIEVED: Birk was happy to get back his $5,000 after the NFL ruled in favor of his appeal after initially fining him for removing his microphone prior to a game against the New York Jets.
Center and guards are required to wear microphones, but Birk argued that the recording device was jutting against his neck
"I was obviously happy about it," Birk said. "It's a new thing and there was a little hiccup there with wearing it. I have a better understanding about what I'm supposed to do from now on if it doesn't fit right and I'm grateful that they decided not to fine me."
Birk joked that his family has already gone shopping with the returned funds.
"A little amnesty, it helps out on the home front," said Birk, a father of five with another child on the way. "The money is already spent. I think when they heard, they went on a shopping spree. It's like free money. It's like finding 20 bucks in your jeans when you wash them
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