A vicious hit to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's face by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata broke Big Ben's nose on Sunday night. Despite the contact with the quarterback's helmet, Ngata was not even flagged on the play, most likely because it was difficult to see outside of slow motion replay.
With or without the broken nose, Ben Roethlisberger led the Pittsburgh Steelers to what is likely a division-clinching win in the AFC North on Sunday night. The Steelers moved to 9-3 while sending the Ravens to their fourth loss with only four games remaining in the season.
As expected, the game was a defensive battle, with the final score being 13-10. Moreover, the Steelers's last touchdown was a direct consequence of a forced fumble by Troy Polamalu on Joe Flacco, setting up a short field.
But this game being a defensive battle is nothing new, and neither is the hatred that flows between the two teams.
Hines Ward was quoted as saying, "[t]he coaches hate each other, the players hate each other...There's no calling each other after the game and inviting each other out to dinner. But the feeling's mutual: They don't like us, and we don't like them. There's no need to hide it, they know it, and we know it. It's going to be one of those black and blue games."
Ben Roethlisberger's broken nose is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this rivalry. Terrell Suggs once stated there was a "bounty" put out on Hines Ward for the wide receiver's tendency to deliver hard blocks on defensive players. In 2008, Steelers safety Ryan Clark put Willis McGahee in the hospital after a huge hit. In 2010, coaches Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh agreed that the Steelers-Ravens rivalry had become the best in football due to the intensity and physicality that each game was contested with.
This season has once again seen the Ravens and Steelers battle it out for the top spot in the AFC North, although it appears that the Steelers have the division wrapped up.
Three of Pittsburgh's remaining games are against Cincinnati, Cleveland and Carolina, teams that combine for a 8-28 record. Pittsburgh also closes with three out of four at home. While the Ravens have a schedule that is characterized by similar ease, the one game advantage that the Steelers hold now will likely make the difference.
The Ravens should still make the playoffs. Hopefully, another chapter can be added in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry with a playoff rematch at Heinz Field.