Terrell Suggs may be one of the NFL’s best hype men.
Still, even the ever-chatty Baltimore Ravens linebacker sounded like he was trying to convince himself that his team’s rivalry with the Pittsburgh Steelers remains as contentious as ever.
“I have a feeling the whole NFL, if they’re not playing, even if they are playing in the Sunday night game, they will catch a glimpse of this game,” Suggs said.
Maybe, but if they do, they’ll be more likely to see a watered-down version of a once white-hot rift that has cooled considerably.
Pittsburgh’s tumble from the league’s elite combined with Baltimore’s Super Bowl title and the abrupt departure of franchise fixtures Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have left both teams still searching for an identity.
That search has overshadowed what once was a twice-annual battle for AFC North supremacy. Now the Ravens (3-3) and Steelers (1-4) find themselves looking up at frontrunning Cincinnati (4-2) as Halloween approaches.
Pittsburgh ended its worst start in 45 years with a victory over the Jets last week. Any momentum can quickly be erased if the Steelers can’t back it up. In a way, the opponent is nearly beside the point.
“Now that it’s Baltimore and it’s the AFC North, it means a little bit more,” Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “But we’re still in a pretty big hole.”
Five things to look for as two teams try not to become even more distant specks in Cincinnati’s rearview mirror:
RUNNING ON EMPTY? Baltimore’s Ray Rice has been one of the league’s most productive and successful backs since he came into the NFL in 2008. Suddenly, it’s all gone. Rice is averaging 39.2 yards rushing per game and an abysmal 2.8 yards per carry, and is splitting time with Bernard Pierce.
It’s gotten so bad coach John Harbaugh joked his team’s struggles running the ball are dragging down the league average. He’s not far off. The Ravens are 27th in the league in rushing.
Then again, the Steelers are even worse. Pittsburgh is 31st, though there have been signs of life since rookie Le’Veon Bell returned from a sprained foot last month.
HOT AT HEINZ: The Steelers have the NFL’s fourth-best home record since Heinz Field opened in 2001. It hardly matters when the Ravens are in town.
Baltimore has won the last three regular-season meetings in Pittsburgh, including a 13-10 victory last November that kickstarted a 2-5 finish by the Steelers and propelled the Ravens to a division title and eventually a world championship.
Suggs doesn’t think his team has any kind of magic formula. The road team is 5-1 in the last six regular-season meetings.
“I don’t know, luck I guess,” he said. “They’ve also had some success on our home field as well. It’ll just be one of those games. It can go either way.”
PROTECTING BEN: Suggs has sacked Roethlisberger 15 1-2 times in his career, by far the most by a Pittsburgh opponent. The frequent meetings in the backfield have built up a mutual respect between one of the NFL’s fiercest pass rushers and one of the league’s toughest QBs to tackle quarterbacks.
They figure to see plenty of each other Sunday. The Steelers are allowing nearly four sacks a game, though coach Mike Tomlin stresses he’s not overly concerned about the pounding Roethlisberger is receiving.
“Quarterbacks get hit,” Tomlin said. “That’s that nature of the game. That’s why people rush people. That’s why they employ people like Suggs and (Elvis) Dumervil. It’s our job to minimize that.”
STREAKING BROWN: Since having an onfield discussion with offensive coordinator Todd Haley about his role during a loss to Cincinnati in Week 2, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has put together the most productive streak in team history.
Brown has 30 receptions over the last three games and even completed a pass last week against the Jets. He is quickly becoming the No. 1 receiver the Steelers envisioned when they let speedy Mike Wallace walk in free agency last spring.
“I did all right (last week), but I think I left a couple plays out there and could have been a little better on a couple more routes,” Brown said. “I just have to continue to find ways to get better.”
CONFOUNDING INCONSISTENCY: The Ravens insist they’re not in the midst of a Super Bowl hangover, though at times it certainly looks like one. Their first six weeks include a 21-point romp over Houston and a three-point loss to Buffalo.
“Sometimes it just seems like we’re missing pieces here and there,” Suggs said. “There are other times it seems like we can be one of the best teams in the NFL.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
Terrell Suggs may be one of the NFL’s best hype men.
Richland's Pecora is one of two local wrestlers in state finals
It has never been easy for Nico Pecora to just be himself on the wrestling mat.
He’s always been the son of legendary Pitt-Johnstown coach Pat Pecora. And the younger brother of standout Marco Pecora.
- Orioles go long to beat Pirates
- Minnesota hands out loss to Penn State in regular-season finale
- Bucs done in by Buchholz
- St. Francis outlasts Sacred Heart
Bengals make low offer to Hawkins
Johnstown’s Andrew Hawkins grew up with the Cincinnati Bengals while following his older brother Artrell Hawkins Jr.’s NFL career.
The younger Hawkins could see himself wearing a Bengals uniform and playing wide receiver in Cincinnati for years to come. But the Bishop McCort High School graduate knows the business side of the NFL sometimes gets in the way of the storybook ending.
Second place little consolation to contenders
Perspective can be a tricky thing in athletics.
Just ask Richland’s Nico Pecora and Bedford’s Jon Gabriel.
PIAA wrestling notebook: Murin not pleased with fifth place
Max Murin won the first 36 matches of his varsity career.
But the Central Cambria freshman was disappointed after he dropped two consecutive bouts on Friday night at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships.
Berlin girls avenge earlier loss to Portage
Berlin Brothersvalley was highly motivated to play Portage on Saturday in their PIAA Class A girls’ first-round basketball matchup at Central Cambria High School.
The Mountaineers, who lost at Portage earlier in the season, held the Mustangs to a single basket in the first half on 1 of 21 shooting Saturday and went on to a 59-42 victory.
Shade girls nip Bishop Carroll
Alexis Meck isn’t the first name that comes to mind when the Shade girls’ basketball team is the topic.
On Saturday, her name was the last in the scorebook as the Panthers edged Bishop Carroll 56-54 in a PIAA Class A first-round game at Pitt-Johnstown’s Sports Center.
- More Sports Headlines
- Richland's Pecora is one of two local wrestlers in state finals