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BALTIMORE – Sept. 19, 2004, a slender, clean-shaven Ben Roethlisberger came from the Pittsburgh Steelers bench at M&T Bank Stadium and made an impromptu NFL debut with no idea what his future would bring. Eighteen years later, a tougher and pig Roethlisberger will have to play his last game as a quarterback on the same pitch, home to what became his toughest rival (13.00 ET, CBS).
Without Pittsburgh landing a longshot spot in the playoffs, Roethlisberger’s career will come full circle – a vicious circle by Ravens-Steelers standards – and end a significant chapter in one of football’s greatest grudge matches.
“It’s kind of Shakespeare,” former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said before adding, “but I think it would only fit if we win.”
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Although Big Ben is preparing to take his last bow, current and former Ravens are still eager for the team to get one last shot at the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Suggs is participating in his first match at M&T Bank Stadium since he last played there in 2019, just so he can watch Roethlisberger’s farewell match.
No one has beaten the Ravens more than Roethlisberger. His 18 wins against them, including in the playoffs, are seven more than any other quarterback.
And no one has slapped Roethlisberger to the ground more than the Ravens. Baltimore’s 76 sacks by Roethlisberger are 12 more than any other team.
Roethlisberger’s departure means the last of the old-school players to say goodbye to this up-and-coming rivalry that no longer features people like Hines Ward, Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu and Suggs. Future games between the Ravens and the Steelers will have a different feel without Roethlisberger.
“In our [defensive meeting] room, we always used to say, ‘This guy is not just a quarterback, he’s a football player,’ Lewis said. “And he’s a backyard-type football player. If you ask Ben, after he retires, to put on a Steeler’s shirt, and I put on a Ravens’ shirt, and let’s go into the backyard, and let’s go. us go to it again, he will say, “I ”m down for that. I’m going to get hurt. I want to go through it. ‘”
Here’s a look at Roethlisberger’s role in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry through the eyes of former Ravens who played against him:
Debut without script
In Week 2 of the 2004 season, Steelers starting quarterback Tommy Maddox put his arm back to throw when Ravens cornerback Gary Baxter hit him from the blind. Maddox rose from the ground with his right elbow. With 11 minutes and 53 seconds left of the third quarter, Roethlisberger replaced Maddox in what was the first appearance for rookie No. 11 overall. Roethlisberger went on to throw in 176 yards and two touchdowns on less than half of a 30-13 loss in Baltimore, and then he went on to win his next 13 starts.
Bart Scott, former Ravens linebacker: “We always used to say, ‘Do not hurt the bad players,’ and Tommy Maddox was a bad player. We knock him out of the game, and then Ben Roethlisberger comes in like, ‘Oh man, this is grilled chicken.’ We have a young rookie quarterback coming in and he’s making a few throws and suddenly he’s out there like Willie Beamen [from ‘Any Given Sunday’] with the invisible juice. “
Lewis: “When Ben came in, we thought, ‘Wow, okay’, Ben is not your 6-foot-1 quarterback. Ben is great [6-feet-5]. And the first thing we said was that we should get this guy to the ground. Do not hug his shoulder pads and think you got him down, right? And then I think the first couple of series realized that wait a minute, it’s going to take more than just one person to get him down. “
Suggests: “What really stood out was like he did not miss a beat. I do not think we made him make too many mistakes. Like we did their whole fanbase to advantage when we knocked Tommy Maddox out. games, and the story speaks for itself. “
Beatdowns in Baltimore
Roethlisberger returns to the stage for the two most famous hits on him. In November 2006, an unblocked Scott Roethlisberger shook so hard that he knocked him off his feet and on his back.
Scott: “I can imagine it being the same way Tiger Woods feels when he hears that ping. When you hit it in a sweet spot. When you have the perfect swing, whether you’re Sammy Sosa or you are “Barry Bonds, it’s like the perfect hit. I literally thought I was killing him.”
Lewis: “That’s what makes him special in this rivalry. We all know how quarterbacks are favored and they get all the calls. He was the one guy, honestly, who never looked for a call. He wanted to win it. the old-school way, which drove us crazy. “
Roethlisberger said your body felt like you’ve been out for five or six car accidents after a Ravens-Steelers game, and he had the bloody face to prove it. On December 5, 2010, Roethlisberger got his nose broken by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata on the game’s first drive.
Ngata: “I’m passing my guard and Ben’s right behind the guard. So I’m like, just come down as hard as you can fast and try to take him down. It just happened by accident, and [my left hand] hit him just perfectly between the face mask and broke his nose. [But] I did not know that at all. We get to the sideline and one of our guys from above [in the booth] said, ‘Hey, Haloti broke Ben’s nose.’ I can not even remember that I came close to his head and because it was a quick pop. “
Scott: “You’re talking about being able to stare down the gun barrel with all the exotic flash we’ve brought to him. I remember looking at his nose, and it’s like an S. The only thing, “what he did was put tissue in his nose. The pain that this man has taken is legendary.”
With a broken nose, Roethlisberger led the winning drive and threw a nine-yard touchdown to Isaac Redman with 2:51 left of the game. Of Roethlisberger’s 52 winning trips, 10 have come to Baltimore.
Ngata: “I’m surprised there are no more comebacks than that. He had the last laugh in many of those games. I swear I would look up [toward the end of games] and there is still one minute and 12 seconds left. I say, ‘Oh, it’s too much time for Ben.’
“I remember looking at his nose, and it’s like an S. All he did was put tissue up in his nose. The pain this man has taken is legendary.”
Scott: “When someone is a tough guy, do you think it’s about his physical but not his mental. How many teams can say, ‘Hi, when Ben Roethlisberger went into the no-huddle mode, where he starts calling his own plays, that’s when we get scared. That’s when we get nervous. “
Suggests: “He’s one of those rare players who raised the level of not only the players around him, but the players who played against him. You could not have a bad match and thought you would win against him. You could not make mistakes and think you will win. He should always compete and he would always try to make a game. It will be his legacy. “
The ‘appropriate’ farewell
The Steelers are unlikely to reach the off-season. In addition to winning in Baltimore, the Pittsburgh need the Colts to lose to the Jaguars and Raiders and Chargers in order not to get a draw. If Pittsburgh fails to reach the playoffs, this game will put the finishing touches on a historic career for Roethlisberger, who is in the top-10 all-time wins (164), passing yards (63,844) and touchdown passes (417). And his last snap would come at the same spot where he took his first.
Ngata: “It would be great – especially if we get a win. Send him away with a loss, right? There’s just no better way to send your rival quarterback than to end his last regular season game in Baltimore with a loss. It ‘ It will be such a good ending. “
Scott: “Well, I hope they end his career there. I hope it’s exclamation marks. His career started there with us helping him out by knocking Tommy Maddox out, but hopefully it should end there, and that’s appropriate. His career should end there, and they should beat him for it too. “
Lewis: “If it’s an opponent he could have played last, it would have been Baltimore. And I guarantee you, if you were to ask him about the cast or the players on the other side of it, I guarantee you he would go back and say, ‘Give me Sizzle [Suggs], give me Ray, give me that crew one more time. I want to dance with that crew one more time. ‘ But man, now that he’s playing in Baltimore, let me say this in advance: I do not hope he goes out the way he wants to go out. “