The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Then? Steelers-Raiders. Now? Steelers-Ravens.

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In the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders played a brand of football that would get them booted out of the league these days. Head slaps, illegal hits, clothesline tackles, mauling receivers, messing with field conditions -- it was truly an "anything goes" game, and the Steelers and Raiders personified it. After the Dolphins dynasty putzed out in the early 1970s, these two teams were often challenging each other for the AFC Super Bowl berth, and "hate" may be an understatement for the way they felt about each other.

There was the controversial Immaculate Reception in 1972, the Steelers fans who assaulted Raiders tight end Bob Moore in 1974, the 1975 AFC Championship in which the Steelers "accidentally" froze the field, taking away Oakland's deep passing game, and Steelers coach Chuck Noll calling Raiders cornerback George Atkinson and safety Jack Tatum "the criminal element" after they mugged Lynn Swann on the field in 1976. Of course, Pittsburgh cornerback Mel Blount was just as violent when he went up against Oakland's Cliff Branch. These two teams hated each other because they were so much alike.

These days, with the Brady/Manning rivalry on hiatus, the best go-round can be seen whenever the Steelers play their divisional nemesis, the Baltimore Ravens. Two more teams very much alike -- both led by accomplished young coaches and defensive masterminds in charge of superior 3-4 defenses, with future Hall of Fame safeties in Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, and great young quarterbacks in Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger.

The Steelers and Ravens faced each other three times in the 2008 season, and while Pittsburgh swept in the series (including the AFC Championship game), the games were close and brutal. This new rivalry is based more on grudging respect -- think Balboa-Creed, not Balboa-Clubber Lang -- but they're heavyweight fights all the same.

By Doug Farrar  |  March 27, 2009; 10:50 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I agree. The Ravens vs Steelers/Flacco vs Rothliseberger/Harbaugh vs Tomlin is going to be the most compelling rivalry in sports for years to come.

Posted by: ganggreene | April 1, 2009 9:25 AM

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