|Even though it's his first year, Tomlin understands intensity of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 30 October 2007 12:13|
The tapes from last season's two games told him all he needed to know.
During former coach Bill Cowher's 15 seasons, no other division team roughed up the Steelers the way the Ravens did last year in winning 27-0 in Baltimore and 31-7 in Pittsburgh.
The scoreboard wasn't all the Ravens dominated. They stuffed the Steelers at the line of scrimmage, shut down their running game, sacked Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch 14 times without giving up a sack themselves and generally played school-yard bully during the two mismatches.
No, Tomlin didn't need someone to break down the tapes.
``I didn't look at last year's tape with a mentality of looking for mismatches or having an understanding of what our guys were being asked to do,'' Tomlin said Tuesday. ``I was just looking for their playing personality when they play the Pittsburgh Steelers, what they were intent on getting done and how they went about executing it.''
What Tomlin saw was a Baltimore team that knew it was better and played like it, never giving the Steelers a chance to settle into a rhythm or establish an offensive flow. The Ravens went on to finish 13-3 and win the division by five games.
Times change quickly in the NFL, however, and so has the rivalry.
Now, it's the Ravens (4-3) who are chasing the Steelers (5-2), with Monday night's game in Pittsburgh representing a two-game swing in the standings.
Should the Ravens win, they'll even up the race with half a season to go. If the Steelers win, they'll be up by two with games against the Jets (1-7) and Dolphins (0-8) later this month.
Obviously, Tomlin is about to learn what Ravens-Steelers games are like. After years with big-talking linebackers Ray Lewis on one side and Joey Porter on the other, though Porter is now with Miami, there is understandably an intense dislike between the two.
``I don't like too many people I compete against when I am competing,'' Tomlin said, suggesting it won't be difficult to work up disdain for Baltimore. ``The dislike is probably something that sizzles and sells. The reality is it's a hot matchup because it is generally two good football teams that play football in a similar style.
``I expect it to be heated and it definitely will be in terms of the hatred and things of that nature.''
Baltimore is the only division team that has played Pittsburgh nearly even since the Steelers moved into Heinz Field in 2001. Since then, the Steelers are 13-1 against Cleveland, 10-4 against Cincinnati, counting the postseason, but only 7-6 with three consecutive losses against Baltimore.
Still, the Steelers believe the rivalry is in better hands this season. Roethlisberger is healthy again and in control of the offense as he was while winning the Super Bowl during the 2005 season. He is playing much better than he did while being intercepted by Baltimore four times last season.
That improvement is reflected by his statistics: 15 touchdowns and six interceptions in seven games compared to seven TDs and 14 interceptions a year ago.
Again, Tomlin didn't need to be around last year to see major improvement by a quarterback who was good enough to win 27 of his first 31 NFL starts before his off season a year ago.
day and that is what makes it fun.''
Notes: DE Aaron Smith (sprained left knee) could play Monday after being out since the first quarter Oct. 21 in Denver. He didn't start Sunday for the first time since 2000. ... FB Dan Kreider (sprained ankle) may play after getting hurt early in the 24-13 victory at Cincinnati on Sunday. ... TE Jerame Tuman (back), who has missed two games, is doubtful. ... The Steelers haven't beaten Baltimore since a 20-19 win in Pittsburgh during a Monday night game in 2005.