Twice a year we commemorate the great defensive teams that came before us, and it’s when the Ravens and Steelers lace up and go to work against each other. There are other rivalries with plenty of bad blood and great storylines, but none that remind us how championships could be won with a suffocating defense and run game. And it’s more than that, 5 have of the last 10 AFC Championships have featured at least either the Ravens or Steelers, if not both, and 3 of the last ten Superbowls belong to them as well. Patriots vs. Colts? Packers vs. Bears? Cowboys vs. Redskins? Only the Packers can argue they have an elite defense out of this group, and only the Patriots vs. Colts have been better represented in championship games.
To me, this game is about more than just two of the best franchises in the past 10 years fighting it out. The rules in the NFL have changed significantly to favor offensive players in the past 10 years. This game is to remind people that a game doesn’t have to be high scoring to be entertaining. This is a game of will, determination and discipline; and these are two teams that when they’re at their best, they can show you how to pound a team into submission. Seriously, watch either of these teams when they’re up by 10 on an opponent, and you can watch them smash the will out of their opponent. Over the past 10 years, no one has grinded it out better than these guys.
I think I have a small love affair with great defense, and it doesn’t matter what sport it is. And it’s possible that I should learn to evolve with the game and love watching a great offensive attack. But I don’t want to. I want to see my team line up and pound the snot out of the other one until they say uncle, and I don’t want the NFL to keep changing rules until that’s no longer possible. Part of me believes that as long as these two teams keep doing what they’re doing, there will always be people in the NFL that want to grind it out.
In short, the difference between watching Patriots vs. Colts and Ravens vs. Steelers is very similar to the difference between watching Ocean’s Eleven and The Departed; both are entertaining, but where one is slick, the other is violent and gritty. Thank God for the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens.