By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was at it again this week, talking up his team’s matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers and saying that the winner likely will go on to win the Super Bowl.
The Steelers (12-4) face the Ravens (13-4) for the third time this season and the second time in three years during the playoffs Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Heinz Field. The Steelers won that 2008 AFC championship game and beat Arizona in the Super Bowl. Each team beat the other on the road this season.
“The teams are similar and equal this year, but we split in the regular season,” Suggs said Tuesday morning via conference call with the Steelers media. “We both finished 12-4. That’s why I think the stakes are so much higher. (These are) the best two teams in the NFL.
“You can argue Atlanta and New England, but everything that takes to win in this game, to win in January that’s why this game is so big. Anyone could argue the winner this game will most likely go on to win the Super Bowl. You can put that out there because that’s what these two teams are.”
That doesn’t mean Suggs is discounting New England or the Jets, for that matter, and he termed the chance to travel to Foxboro, Mass. a dream come true and great opportunity.
“Even though I would love for us to win and I would love for us to have the opportunity to go to Foxboro and beat the NFL’s poster boy (Tom Brady), I would definitely enjoy a showdown with my mentor Rex Ryan in the AFC Championship,” Suggs said. “(But) I’m in my praying closet every day.
“I’m sure they’re preparing to win as well. That’s what it is. And I think both teams are willing to die than to let the other team win. … It’s about the wins and losses. One can argue that Pittsburgh let one get away there early in Week 4. But it’s wins and losses. We won the first one. They won the second one. This is the third one. I think this is how it should have turned out.”
Outspoken Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison was told about Suggs’ comments and also asked if the winner between the Steelers and Ravens was just going to be a sacrificial lamb for the Patriots anyway.
“All I’m worried about is Baltimore,” Harrison said. “Everybody else can kiss the back side of my back. … I feel like we’re the better team, but that’s why you play games. You play them out and see who wins.”
Are the Steelers and Ravens the best two teams in the NFL?
“Sounds good,” Harrison said. “It’s going to be a physical game. This is Baltimore versus Pittsburgh. Whichever defense plays the best is the team that’s going to win.”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger also gave a nod to the teams’ defenses when asked what would determine the winner in this game.
“This talks about the strength and competitiveness of the AFC North,” Roethlisberger said. “This is the second time in three years that we’ve played each other in the playoffs, and I guess it’s probably what the NFL and the fans wanted. You can talk about the offense, but these are the two best defenses.
“They are great defenses with a lot of exotic-type blitzes and exotic looks. Both groups are veteran, so it’s all about the offense that makes the least amount of mistakes. That’s why the games are always close. (And) if you ask me, the (Super Bowl) winner either has to go to Pittsburgh or New England.”
Roethlisberger added that other than blowing his nose and playing hop-scotch, injuries to his nose and right foot have not bothered him much the past couple weeks. The Steelers had a bye last week and began practicing Sunday for their divisional playoff game with the Ravens Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Heinz Field.
“We know what’s at stake, and whoever wins this game the other team will have to think about that loss all offseason,” Steelers wideout Hines Ward said. “We know all about them, and we’re not going to get in a war of words with those guys. They have to come here, after a big win on the road.
“So, hopefully, our crowd will get into it and help us play a good game. But we just have to take it one game at a time. We know that the AFC North is always Baltimore and the Pittsburgh Steelers, so we know this is going to be a great ball game. It’s going to be a physical ball game into the fourth quarter.”
Steelers safety Ryan Clark was more specific when asked to comment on what Suggs said about the winner of this matchup being favored in the Super Bowl.
“Clearly, this game is not for the Super Bowl, because this only is a division playoff game against an extremely good opponent that we know well and that we respect,” Clark said. “We know they have good players.
“But they talk about it more than we do. We want to show it on the field. The stakes are high, but it’s the playoffs and they’re always high. The loser goes home, so that makes each game that much more important.”