PITTSBURGH -- NFL, college, high school -- even Pop Warner. As far as Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil is concerned, nothing tops Ravens-Steelers when it comes to football rivalries.
"This is best rivalry I've ever been a part of by a long shot," said Dumervil, who joined the Ravens in 2013 after playing for the Broncos from 2006-12. "That's one of the reasons I came here. It's cool to be a part of it now, to have played in it. And now, for a playoff game, it doesn't get any better than that."
Ravens-Steelers took center stage last night, as the teams battled for the fourth time in the postseason at Heinz Field. The Steelers won all three of those games, only adding to the intensity of a rivalry that borders on hatred for many players.
Ray Lewis openly acknowledged his contempt for the Steelers during his Hall of Fame career in Baltimore. James Harrison, who is back with Pittsburgh after a one-year hiatus in Cincinnati, expressed similar sentiments. So did retired Steelers receiver Hines Ward, who enjoyed leveling Ravens' opponents with his punishing blocks, not to mention making big catches throughout the rivalry.
"This is probably what the NFL wanted more than anything to see these two AFC North teams go at it," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "I like to think we're different. I like to think we're still moving up."
A win for the Ravens on Saturday night meant a return trip to the Patriots in the divisional playoffs next Saturday. The Ravens defeated the Patriots in Foxboro in the 2012 AFC Championship Game on the way to their Super Bowl victory over the 49ers in New Orleans.
A win for the Steelers meant a return trip to Denver next Sunday in the divisional round. The Steelers have plenty of not-so-fond memories of their last trip to the Mile High City, where they were beaten in overtime in the 2011 playoffs. Tim Tebow won the game when he connected with Demaryius Thomas on an 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime.
The Ravens completed a difficult journey to the playoffs, having dealt with the fallout from the Ray Rice suspension. The running back was suspended two games at the start of the season, but was then released by the team when a video showing him knocking out his then-fiancee in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino was posted Sept. 8 on TMZSports.com.
The Ravens qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card team by winning three of their last five games, while the Steelers won the division with an 11-5 record after missing the playoffs in 2013 following an 0-4 start.
Pittsburgh was without its Pro Bowl running back, Le'Veon Bell, who was ruled out with a knee injury he suffered in last week's 27-17 win over the Bengals at Heinz Field. Bell suffered a hyperextended knee and had held out hope he would be able to play.
The Steelers went with rookie running back Josh Harris, who was elevated from the practice squad after the Steelers released LeGarrette Blount. Harris had just 16 yards on nine carries before suiting up for Saturday.
"It was a pretty good week," Harris said. "I felt pretty good with all the things they asked me to do."
The Steelers also signed veteran Ben Tate as insurance, and it was Tate who actually got the start in place of Bell.
Tate was quite familiar with the rivalry even before he got to Pittsburgh. Tate, playing for his fourth team in the last 12 months found himself playing in one of sports' great matchups.
"Everyone knows about it," he said. "So, it's nothing new that I've never heard about before."
Tate and his teammates were set to face a highly motivated Ravens team intent on breaking their three-game postseason losing streak in Pittsburgh.
"They're all in the past," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said of the previous postseason losses. "We know we just have got to play one football game. All the other ones pretty much had their result, but this one don't."