For a team that has lost two straight and is coming off an NFC North loss to Cleveland, the Baltimore Ravens sure are spending a good amount of time spewing venom at their next opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Ravens (2-2) and Steelers (1-3) have become bitter division rivals.
"We hate each other," Baltimore linebacker Pernell McPhee said. "I know for sure we hate them. We respect them as men, but we really hate them. That's just how it is. That's the blood between the teams. It's like, I guess, God vs. the devil."
Even Ravens coach John Harbaugh is buying in.
"One of the things that was said in the meeting (Wednesday) was, 'You're not a Raven until you beat the Steelers,'" Harbaugh said. "Well, we've got some young guys that still need to beat the Steelers."
One first-time matchup will come at quarterback.
This will be the first game against Pittsburgh for Baltimore's Lamar Jackson, who leads the top-ranked offense into Heinz Field on Sunday.
"I know it's going to be crazy," Jackson said. "Rival game. I'm ready."
For the Steelers' Mason Rudolph, this isn't just his first game against Baltimore, but also just his fourth game and third start in the NFL as he fills in for future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger, who had season-ending elbow surgery.
The Pittsburgh defense is hoping to give Jackson the same treatment it gave Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton on Monday. The Steelers sacked Dalton eight times and kept the Bengals out of the end zone.
"You have to continue to rush, but you have to rush smart or they are going to make you pay," said Pittsburgh defensive end Cam Heyward, who had 2.5 sacks against the Bengals. "I think the biggest thing we can do is get pressure up the middle, especially with the defensive line front. He is looking for those vertical seams so he can create and still look downfield. We have to make sure we can contain him. It's got to be for four quarters plus."
On the flip side, the Baltimore defense hopes to punish Rudolph and everyone else.
"We've just got to get back to playing technique and fundamental football and being very, very physical and violent," McPhee said. "I don't think we've been very physical and violent as we could be."
Pittsburgh is also expecting that same style of play from the Baltimore offense.
"They are still physical," Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree said. "They are one of the most physical teams you are going to face all year. The tight ends are still the same, big guys, ready to run block. Coming at you, hard-nosed guys. The offensive line is still going to be hard-nosed as well.
"It's going to be one of the most physical games we play all year. It's a division game, too, so it's that much more important."
The Steelers could still be without tight end Vance McDonald (shoulder). Running back James Conner (ankle) and Heyward (quadriceps) were in and out of game Monday but should be good to go.
Baltimore tight end Mark Andrews, who has been managing a foot injury, sat out practice Wednesday but seems likely to play. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams, a surprise scratch against Cleveland because of a knee injury, was not practicing as of Wednesday, but Harbaugh indicated it was not a long-term problem.
--Field Level Media