The Pittsburgh Steelers will meet the Baltimore Ravens for the third time this season Saturday, but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger isn't exactly looking forward to playing such a familiar foe.
"As a competitor, yes, you love it, but heck no, I hate playing the Ravens," Roethlisberger said Tuesday on a conference call, according to The Baltimore Sun. "They're so good. Defense, every single person and every scheme, everything they do, it just challenges you. As a competitor, you like that challenge and you like the competitiveness, but man, they're good."
The last time the AFC North rivals met, Dec. 5 at Baltimore, Roethlisberger came away with a broken nose, courtesy of an inadvertent hit to his face by Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
Roethlisberger said he knows it wasn't done on purpose, and he even accused the wrong player after the play.
"I have to apologize to Kelly Gregg," Roethlisberger said. "I blamed him for it during the game. I'll have to apologize when I see him on the field. I was giving him a hard time.
"But any time that these two teams play, the winner walks off feeling pretty good about themselves. I know that because I know some of the guys over there and I know what this rivalry means. So like I said, it's always a big-time game."
And Roethlisberger always plays big against the Ravens, going 8-2 overall and winning his last six meetings with them since 2006. After Ngata broke Roethlisberger's nose in the previous game, the quarterback shrugged off the injury, played the entire game and threw the decisive touchdown pass in Pittsburgh's 13-10 victory.
"We're going to get after him like we always do. It's going to be really important," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of facing Roethlisberger. "That's the key to stopping him: You've got to get him down. You can't let him extend plays."
At 6-foot-5 and 241 pounds, Roethlisberger looks more like a tight end than a quarterback, and he would rather run through a tackler than slide to a halt. In that December game against the Ravens, he entered with an injured right foot and left with a shattered nose, yet still did the job in a game that propelled Pittsburgh to the division title.
"I was glad we broke his nose," Harbaugh said with a wry grin, "and I was very impressed he played through it. Obviously, you can throw very effectively with a broken nose. He proved that."
According to The Sun, Roethlisberger wasn't upset by Harbaugh's statement about the broken nose.
"Coach Harbaugh and I have a pretty good relationship," said Roethlisberger, who shares the same alma mater -- Miami of Ohio -- as the coach. "I always talk to him before the game, just kind of a hello. He's a Miami guy, so I don't think he really meant anything malicious by it."
Baltimore has defeated Pittsburgh three times over the past four seasons, and in each instance, Roethlisberger missed the game. He was inactive in a 27-21 loss in 2007 because the Steelers already had clinched a playoff berth; he was sidelined with a concussion in a 20-17 defeat last year; and he sat out the first matchup this season while serving an NFL-issued suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy.
Now Roethlisberger is eager to extend a winning streak that he finds perplexing.
"I don't think there's any magic recipe other than I guess I'm lucky," Roethlisberger said. "That's all there is."
Added Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: "I don't read too much into those things. Ben has won a lot of games here, period. So, I don't think it's anything that he has over the Baltimore Ravens or anything of that nature."
Although Roethlisberger wound up with a broken nose last time, the Ravens intend to keep it clean in their effort to chase Roethlisberger out of the pocket.
"I am not going to say I wish him success or anything, or to have a good game or nothing like that," Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "But we don't want to see anyone get hurt."
The Suggs versus Roethlisberger matchup is a rivalry within a rivalry.
"He and I usually battle it out, and these are always good games," the quarterback said. "I like his tenacity. He's tough and physical. We know all that stuff, but he never stops. His motor never stops going. He's a tough guy, and I like playing against him. We talk a little bit to each other out there, I won't call it trash talking, but we talk to each other. So it's a lot of fun."
Asked if he could remember the last time he lost to the Ravens, Roethlisberger replied: "I don't like losing. I remember all my losses."