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Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger relishes his 'special rivalry' with Terrell Suggs

Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger relishes his 'special rivalry' with Terrell Suggs

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The last time Ben Roethlisberger faced the Baltimore Ravens, he threw for 506 yards and led four fourth-quarter scoring drives in a 39-38 Pittsburgh victory.

The teams meet again Sunday night in an AFC North showdown. Perhaps by then, Ravens safety Eric Weddle will recall just how good Roethlisberger was in that back-and-forth matchup last December.

"He had 500 yards against us?" Weddle asked Wednesday. "I thought we controlled him for the most part until the end. Huh. I don't know, obviously my memory's lost."

Weddle's lapse aside, it was one of many unforgettable performances by Roethlisberger in a rivalry that ranks among the best in the NFL. Since breaking into the league in 2004, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback has thrown 38 touchdown passes and won 14 of 24 games (including playoffs) against the Ravens.

Baltimore's defensive game plan Sunday night will focus primarily on stopping Roethlisberger.

"Obviously, he's capable of taking a game over, throwing the ball every play if he has to," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

Roethlisberger put the ball up 66 times in that December game, completing 44 with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

And man, he had a blast. Over the years, Roethlisberger has relished matching wits against several of the finest defensive players in NFL history.

"Do I like this rivalry? Yes and no," Roethlisberger said. "Yes, in the sense that it's just, man, I remember the days, and even now, still going against that guy, 55 (Terrell Suggs). Ray Lewis, (Haloti) Ngata, Ed Reed, the list goes on and on, guys I have the utmost respect for that are Hall of Fame players. It's fun in that sense.

"It's not fun because typically after this, you feel like you've been in five or six car wrecks. It takes a toll on your body. But in the sense of just being a purist and loving football, this is a great rivalry."

Roethlisberger has even warmed up to Suggs, a linebacker in his 16th season who loves to talk trash and smother the quarterback in the backfield.

"I was blessed to play against Ray Lewis, and I know Ed Reed's going to get in the Hall of Fame, too," Roethlisberger said. "But I've been going 14 years against Suggs, and he's a first-ballot guy for me. I'm not trying to pump him up because we're about to play them. I truly feel that way. I think there's a lot of mutual respect there. It's a special rivalry he and I have."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called it: "Two legendary competitors battling."

Harbaugh said, "It's been fun to be in those games and see those two iconic players go at it, that's for sure."

With the new NFL rules limiting the manner in which a player can bring down a quarterback, Roethlisberger chuckled when asked if he might be able to avoid enduring another painful afternoon due to Suggs.

"If he gets close to me," the quarterback said, "I'm asking for a flag."

Pittsburgh has won the last three games in this rivalry, but the Ravens won the previous four -- including a 30-17 victory in the 2015 playoffs.

Flacco was a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh when Roethlisberger broke into the NFL. They've been competing against each other since 2008, with neither enjoying a distinct advantage in wins and losses.

"I've had my eye on him for a while, so it's cool to be able to go into that stadium and play against those guys and play against him," Flacco said.

The Ravens defense can't say the same thing.

"Nothing but respect and admiration for what he's done over his career. It's a tough, tough challenge for us, but we're up for it," Weddle said. "Any quarterback that throws for supposedly 500 yards ... I still don't know if I believe you guys."

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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

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USA Today Sports

Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.

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Youth movement leads Ravens’ list of MVPs of 2018 season

Youth movement leads Ravens’ list of MVPs of 2018 season

The Baltimore Ravens' 2018-19 season certainly wasn't boring.

A change at starting quarterback while displaying the NFL's No. 1 defense for just the second time in team history en route to a playoff run highlighted their campaign. 

With rookies on the rise and veterans still at the top of their game, who on the Ravens' roster had MVP performances in 2018?

Offensive MVP: QB Lamar Jackson

Coming in for an injured Joe Flacco in Week 11, Jackson pulled the Ravens out of a four-game losing streak and led the team to a 6-1 record down the stretch. His 695 rushing yards is the most by all NFL quarterbacks in 2018 and also ranks 11th most by a quarterback in NFL single-season-history. 

The Ravens' leader for the foreseeable future, Jackson landed the team in their first postseason appearance in three seasons and rekindled fandom in the city of Baltimore. 

Defensive MVP: CB Marlon Humphrey

Humphrey followed up his strong rookie season with an even stronger sophomore season. Nursing a groin injury for part of it, Humphrey led the team with 15 passes defended, 37 total tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble. 

Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15, the cornerback produced a career-high four passes defended and one interception in the 20-12 win. Through 14 games, Humphrey proved he can matchup with some of the best receivers in the league while slowly emerging as a leader of the defense.

Special Teams MVP: Justin Tucker

He's the most reliable guy in Baltimore, finishing the 2018 season with a franchise-record 141 points for the third-consecutive season.

Named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month in September and November, Tucker was snubbed from a Pro Bowl appearance after making 36 of 39 field goal attempts. 

Unsung Hero: RB Gus Edwards

Beep, beep. Make way for Gus 'the bus'' Edwards. 

Alongside Jackson, the undrafted rookie out of Rutgers emerged in their Week 11 matchup against the Bengals rushing for 115 yards on 17 carries and his first-career touchdown. Through seven weeks, Edwards helped take the Ravens' 27th ranked run game to No. 2 in the league. An introvert in the locker room but an extrovert on the field, Edwards became the Ravens' second rookie in franchise history to post back-to-back 100-yard rushing games in Week 11 and Week 12.

With Greg Roman being promoted to offensive coordinator, expect to see Gus 'the bus' pounding the field in 2019.

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