By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sunday won't be a game between two teams that just don't like each other. Hate is more like it when the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens get together twice annually.
"The coaches hate each other, the players hate each other," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said, almost gleefully.
"There's no calling each other after the game and inviting each other out to dinner. But the feeling's mutual: They don't like us, and we don't like them. There's no need to hide it, they know it, and we know it. It's going to be one of those black and blue games."
Ward said Baltimore is the only team in the NFL he hates. Not even Cincinnati evokes such a strong emotion. "No, I like those guys," Ward said.
Ravens coach Brian Billick thinks Ward went too far to describe the rivalry.
"Hatred is a little strong," Billick said. "I think there is a huge amount of respect that I have alluded to many times. As heated as this game gets -- and it gets heated -- two seconds after it is over and once the players come together, watch them interact with one another.
"I think hate is a little strong of a word, but it is a pretty strong emotion from the kickoff to the last down."
The chairmen of the emotional boards have been linebackers Joey Porter of the Steelers and Ray Lewis of the Ravens. It reached a pinnacle in the 2003 opener at Heinz Field, even though Porter did not play after he was shot in the rear end the previous week. Lewis mocked Porter's famous boot after making a play in a 34-15 Steelers victory. Porter was so incensed he tried to call Lewis off the Ravens' bus afterward.
The two have made up.
"Whatever happens out there happens, but afterward I have no problem with him," Porter said. "We buried the hatchet awhile back. On game day, I don't know what might happen."
Lewis missed the past two games with a back injury and is listed as questionable for the Sunday game against the Steelers.
"I know he had that planned, to sit out so he would be ready for this one," Porter said. "If there's one game you want to be back for, you want to be back for this rivalry game because it's always a close game and it means a lot when us two hook up."