Ravens Notebook

Ravens seeking revenge against Steelers for playoff losses

Terrell Suggs hasn't forgotten, a stinging memory seared permanently into his soul.

Not the Pittsburgh Steelers' raucous celebrations, not the sinking feeling of a promising season cut short or the finality of a long offseason to dwell on another postseason setback.

For the Baltimore Ravens' Pro Bowl outside linebacker, returning here represents a chance for some closure from losing the AFC championship three seasons ago and falling in the divisional round last January.

"We remember how they partied after they won the AFC championship," Suggs said. "We remember seeing them party. And last year after they beat us, we remember seeing them party. If you win the game, I guess you get to celebrate how you want to."

Now, another rematch beckons tonight at Heinz Field as the Ravens (5-2) look to avenge bitter playoff defeats that ended their season in two of the past three years. And the Steelers (6-2) are also seeking vengeance from an embarrassing shellacking they absorbed from Baltimore to launch this season at M&T Bank Stadium, a punishing 35-7 defeat where the Ravens snatched a franchise-record seven turnovers. The Steelers are still consumed with that game, and they say they have extra motivational fuel after Ravens punter Sam Koch scored on a two-point conversion run in the second half and late passes into the end zone from Joe Flacco with the game already decided and coach John Harbaugh enjoying the victory with the hometown fans.

"People can throw parties when you can't stop them from scoring, and we couldn't stop them from scoring," Steelers safety Ryan Clark told Pittsburgh reporters. "They can dance all they want."

The defending AFC North champions and Super Bowl runner-ups were immediately dismissed as too old, too slow and too cocky to topple the Ravens or compete in the division. Those declarations were extremely premature, and incorrect.

The Steelers have won six of their past seven games, including an impressive triumph over the New England Patriots a week ago. And they carry that loss to Baltimore around with them. "No question it still hurts," said Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, one of the most formidable deep threats in the game. "Everybody said it was over for us."

The Ravens haven't swept the annual series in five years, the last time they claimed the AFC North.

If they win this game, the Ravens will be exceptionally positioned to earn an automatic playoff berth and perhaps even home-field advantage in the postseason. They have upcoming games against the Seattle Seahawks (2-5), Cincinnati Bengals (5-2), San Francisco 49ers (6-1), Cleveland Browns (3-4), Indianapolis Colts (0-8), San Diego Chargers (4-3), ending the season against Cleveland and Cincinnati.

Traditionally, the Steelers and the Ravens battle for the division. Yet, this is extremely early in the schedule, a quirk for the season series to be done midway through the season after tonight.

"One thing we know and the same thing they know is at the end of the year, we're going to be the same two teams there seeing each other, one way or another," All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "From that standpoint, we get them out of the way early; we get them out of the way early. That's the beauty of, I think, their season and our season because then you go ahead and do what you have to do. We have to do what we have to do. To get them out of the way in the first half of the season, why not get it on?"

The Steelers have been installed as a three-point favorite despite losing by four touchdowns to Baltimore in the first game, respect from the odds makers for the home-field advantage. "I don't see us as the underdog," running back Ray Rice said. "If we win, we've swept them for the season. We don't have to worry about Pittsburgh no more the rest of the year. We control our own destiny. We know what it means. It's going to have that playoff-type atmosphere right now."

As usual, defense figures to be at the forefront of this game.

The Ravens are headlined by the top-ranked defense in the league, and the Steelers are ranked second with about seven yards per game separating them.

The Steelers, though, are shorthanded at linebacker with LaMarr Woodley, who leads them with nine sacks, declared out with a strained hamstring, and middle linebacker James Farrior sidelined with a torn calf. Former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison is set to return from a broken orbital bone. "We know the way they play, they know the way we play," Lewis said. "No secrets with us." The tenor of the game shapes up as another physical encounter with all the intimidation tactics, vicious hits and intensity that this matchup almost always contains. Someone is about to take a beating.

"We are the two most physical teams in the NFL, and we are the only two teams that can play each other like that," said Suggs, who sacked Ben Roethlisberger three times in the first meeting.. "When other teams try to come and do that, it doesn't fare so well. We are so similar. "They are our enemy, but even enemies can show respect. We do respect those guys over there. They are a good football team, but so are we. Let us play football. Let us all go in the room and lock the door."

With the exception of Suggs' colorful remarks all week, there hasn't been a lot of trash talk. Blocking and tackling will do most of the talking tonight

"Our guys are who they are, theydo a great job of preparing and getting ready to play the football game, and they'll play with all their hearts," Harbaugh said. "They'll pour it all out there."

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