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Ravens, Steelers features new faces. But they still hate each other.

Ravens, Steelers features new faces. But they still hate each other.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Jaylon Ferguson didn’t take long to adjust to the Ravens and Steelers rivalry. 

Just a rookie, he’s already been told by coaches and players what to expect for his first matchup between the two AFC North rivals.

“It’s blood in the water and there’s sharks all around,” Ferguson said. “Except we’re the sharks. We going in there to eat.”

But Ferguson’s case is one of many for this week’s bout at Heinz Field, as notable faces from past rivalry games won’t be in the lineup. 

Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown won’t be in the lineup, nor will Joe Flacco or Terrell Suggs. It will be both Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph’s first start in the rivalry. 

Still, the dislike for each other runs deeper than the name on the back of a Ravens or Steelers uniform. No matter who suits up, it’s still one of the league’s best rivalries. 

“Oh yeah, I don’t think that’s ever going to change,” Ronnie Stanley said. “No matter who’s playing for these colors, this rivalry is going to be one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports.”

One player who has seen many Ravens and Steelers games is Pernell McPhee, who played in Baltimore from 2011-2014. 

After stints in Chicago and Washington, he’s back in Baltimore. And his hatred for Pittsburgh hasn’t gone away, either. 

“It's like God versus the Devil,” McPhee said. “I don't know, but it's just the taste (of it). We respect them as men, but as a team, as an organization, me personally, I don't really care too much for them.”

In McPhee’s first go-round as a Raven, the team went 5-3 against the Steelers in the regular season. In 2014, they won a playoff game in Pittsburgh, too. 

There’s little room for catch-up, too, as so many new faces are having to catch up quickly. 

After Tim Williams’ release on Tuesday, Ferguson figures to see an increase in snaps on Sunday. He doesn’t want to take the rivalry lightly, just because he hasn’t experienced it yet. 

“It means a lot to everybody in this organization,” Ferguson said. “For me, coming into this organization just now, it should mean just as much to me. It does. It’s like our Super Bowl. I just got here, it’s just like the fifth game of the season, but it’s the Super Bowl for me.”

Sunday won’t be his first time on the sidelines against the Steelers - he was there last year as Flacco's backup. 

But even then he took immediate notice of the kind of atmosphere the game can produce. He knows he'll have to face that crowd 

“It was actually, for me, just being on the sideline and watching it,” Jackson said. “They play that little song [‘Renegade’], and they wave their little flags and stuff, with the little towels around. It was pretty dope. I enjoyed it. I did, I really did.”

Despite the lack of familiar faces, Sunday’s game is still remarkably important to each team in the early part of the season. 

The Ravens are 2-2 and the Steelers are 1-3. Neither team can afford to fall much farther down in the AFC North and AFC standings, meaning that come Sunday night, some of the new faces on both sides might have the same hatred the old ones did.

“And there's nothing better after a game like that than to play this historic rivalry, I think the best rivalry in sports, this week,” defensive coordinator Don Martindale said.  “...there aren’t the same players that have been here in the past, obviously, but the rivalry is the rivalry.”


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Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens have expressed interest in moving on from Matthew Judon through a trade this offseason. 

Judon, who isn’t under contract for next season, was tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 9.5 — a team-high. He was also the team-leader in quarterback hits with 33. The next best pass-rusher was Tyus Bowser, who registered 10. 

Lined up for a big payday, and with a high-priced franchise tag an option, the Ravens could lose their second pass-rusher in as many years on the free agent market should they elect to not pay Judon the elite pass-rusher money he’ll likely command.

Which brings the Ravens to the report from Schefter that indicated the team could move on from Judon, 27, through the sign-and-trade route. 

Should Judon, or the Ravens, walk away from the negotiating table in free agency, two options exist: The Ravens could either let him walk freely to another team and likely receive a 2021 third-round pick as compensation, or place the franchise tag on Judon. 

With the franchise tag option, the Ravens could keep him for a season and essentially kick the can down the road for a year, or trade him for a return that would likely be greater than the compensatory third, and more importantly, the help would be immediate. 

A few weeks ago, coach John Harbaugh said re-signing Judon would be, “pretty hard,” but that the team was going to try.  

But if the Ravens aren’t able, or are unwilling, to sign Judon, a potential blueprint for a future trade might have been laid out last year by the Chiefs. 

Last season, the Chiefs traded Dee Ford to the 49ers for a second-round pick just a month before they sent first and third-round picks to the Seahawks for Frank Clark and a third-round pick.

Ford had 13 sacks in 2018 and 29 quarterback hits while Clark had 13 as well and 27 quarterback hits. They both immediately signed long-term, expensive contracts with their new teams. 

Baltimore could make a move similar to that with Judon and get better, and more immediate, compensation for him and later add a pass-rusher with the draft capital than the team added.

The Ravens have just under 29 million dollars in cap space, meaning they’ve got the space to sign Judon to a long-term deal or keep him on the franchise tag, but they’d need to make some moves to be able to field a full roster. And that full roster, if Judon isn’t in Baltimore in 2020, needs pass-rushing help. 

Baltimore had 37 sacks as a team, and just over a quarter of them came from Judon. It also had 111 total quarterback hits, and 29.7 percent came from Judon. 

So the report that the Ravens could move Judon could play out, perhaps the most interesting aspect of a Judon trade would be the replacement the Ravens would need to have lined up.

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With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

With big decision looming, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda mum on retirement plans

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has a decision to make on his playing future, but he's in no rush to make it.

The 35-year-old is under contract with the Ravens through the 2020 season, but will take the next month or so to decide if he wants to continue playing or hang up the cleats.

"I'm going to take my time now," Yanda told Ravens.com regarding his future. "Done playing for the year, just take some time over the next month and basically just go with my heart and see how I feel."

The eight-time Pro Bowler was a vital piece in the NFL's best rushing attack in 2019. Yanda, the leader of the offensive line, started and played in 15 games this season for Baltimore, missing the regular-season finale as the Ravens rested multiple starters with the No. 1 seed already clinched.

Following Baltimore's upset divisional playoff loss to the Titans, a visibly disappointed Yanda refused to address his future, but he was definitely thinking about it then.

But if Sunday's Pro Bowl was the last time Yanda put on the pads, he didn't treat the game or experience any differently.

"Not necessarily," Yanda said if he cherished Sunday's Pro Bowl differently. "You're not in that frame of mind. I definitely didn't think about [my retirement decision] too much today, just because it was the Pro Bowl. It's more of a relaxed game, not like a really intense game.

"I didn't have those feelings as much as the Tennessee game," he continued." Yeah, it's a possibility. But those feelings were more in the Tennessee game."

Even at age 35, Yanda remains one of the best guards in the game. He's made the NFL's second-team All-Pro squad the past two seasons and has been a Pro Bowler every season since 2011, minus the 2017 season where he played just two games due to a season-ending ankle injury.

There's no debate: Baltimore would greatly benefit from Yanda returning.

"You want people that want you back," Yanda said. "You want to be playing very well when you end. Nobody wants to fade out; you want to go out strong."

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