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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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New host of talent helping Ravens defense recover from tough early stretch

New host of talent helping Ravens defense recover from tough early stretch

BALTIMORE — Just under two weeks ago, neither Josh Bynes, L.J. Fort or Jihad Ward were on the Ravens roster. 

On Sunday, the three of them contributed to the defense much more than anyone would have thought a few weeks, or days, ago. 

Through two games, it’s fair to say that the new additions are working out.

“I give the credit to them,” coach John Harbaugh said. “Our coaches have done a great job, obviously. And the good thing is, they’re veteran players. So they’ve been coached, they know how to play schemes. They know how they fit certain fronts.”

Bynes was a free agent that didn’t have a team from March to October, when the Ravens came calling. He had an interception last week in Pittsburgh and tipped a pass which led to an interception on Sunday against the Bengals.

Fort was released by the Eagles at the end of September and brought onto the Ravens roster three days later. He played mostly special teams last week, but saw an increase in defensive snaps against the Bengals. 

Both linebackers, Bynes and Fort were brought in to help fortify the Ravens run defense. 

Ward, a defensive lineman, was signed on Oct. 7 and immediately made active in his first game in Baltimore. Ward and Fort each had two combined tackles. 

“I’ve been on the field plenty of times, just keep it simple, just ball,” Ward said. “Just do what I’ve got to do. Give it all I got. Just show my respect to let them know me, that I’m a Raven. Just keep hustling to the ball, do what else we’ve got to do.”

The trio has come in and made an immediate impact on a Ravens defense that struggled through the first three weeks. 

While none of the new additions have been game-changers, they’ve filled their roles admirably in the best way they could.

“We need more vets in the NFL,” Pernell McPhee said with a chuckle. “They want to go young now, the NFL wants to go young, they want to cut all of us out. It is all good, but that is what happens when you get guys that know how to play the game and have been in the game a long time.”

All of the new additions downplayed the difficulty of learning the playbook, since they’ve been in the league for a few years now. 

Teammates have raved about how they’ve come in and done their jobs, too. 

There might not be a ton of game-changing plays from them yet, but for now, they’ve been exactly what the Ravens defense needed.

“They’re proud to be here,” Harbaugh said. “They want to be here and they’re playing at a high level for us. And really, just what we needed at the right time.”


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Lamar Jackson makes history with career day in win over the Bengals

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Lamar Jackson makes history with career day in win over the Bengals

BALTIMORE — Lamar Jackson set the tone for Sunday’s game on the Ravens' first drive of the afternoon. 

He rushed just twice, one of which went for a touchdown, but had 57 yards on the game-tying opening drive. 

Jackson finished with 152 yards on the ground — a career high — to carry the Ravens to a 23-17 win over the Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. 

“I take advantage, like I said before, and I’m trying to win at the end of the day,” Jackson said after the game. “If I’ve got to run, I’ve got to do it and today that’s what it was. Sometimes I had to pass. Sometimes I had to run.”

He did throw for 236 yards and completed 21 of 33 passes, too. But the story was his legs, which kept the Bengals off-balance all day.

“Lamar was able to get out and run because of the way they were playing,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They were playing kind of spill defense. They really didn’t want us to run the ball up inside with our running backs, and that opened up some other things."

Jackson now has 460 rushing yards on the season and is on pace for over 1,200. He’s also on pace for just over 4,000 passing yards.

His dual-threat ability has flummoxed nearly every team the Ravens have played this season. Jackson has had over 300 scrimmage yards in all but one (last week in against the Steelers) of the Ravens' games. 

“That’s the most frustrating thing for a defense,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “You have a play covered, and he’s an elite athlete. We’ve played a couple of good athletes. He’s one of the rarest I’ve seen in person. Just one little crease and he’s got 30 yards on you.”

Cincinnati sold out to stop the interior run, and Jackson and the rest of the Baltimore running attack burned the Bengals on the outside. 

Jackson’s elusiveness was never more evident than on the Ravens' last full drive of the game. The Ravens received the ball with 13:32 left in the fourth quarter and a 20-10 lead. They didn’t give the ball back to the Bengals until there was just over three minutes to play.

“I catch myself on the sideline stretching because, you know, they’ll be holding the ball for a minute and we’ve got to stay warm,” Matthew Judon said. “He picks us up in crucial times and keeps getting first downs. It’s hard, man. You can’t cover everybody and keep a spy on him [at] all times.”

The nine minute, 46 second drive, highlighted by a 16-yard Jackson scramble on 3rd and 14, put away any realistic chance the Bengals had of pulling off an upset.

It capped off a historic day for Jackson and his place in the NFL record books. He became the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 150 yards and register at least 200 yards passing in a regular season game.

The Bengals sold out to stop interior rushes and mostly took away big passing plays from the Ravens. Jackson just made the Bengals pick their poison when it came to choosing what to stop. 

And Jackson made Cincinnati realized that whatever it chose was still poison.

“He was cutting it back, throwing outside and running around,” Bengals linebacker Preston Brown said. “He was just having fun on us, and that’s what you never want to have done.”