OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) -Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs smiled when asked if he expected injured Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to start Sunday in Baltimore.
“We know he’s going to play. This is championship football,” Suggs said Wednesday. “We’re expecting to see 7-Up. Don’t feed into that.”
Roethlisberger sprained his right foot in Pittsburgh’s overtime win in Buffalo last week. Although Suggs has no way of knowing the severity of the injury, he does know the importance of this particular Steelers-Ravens game.
That’s why he has no doubt about Roethlisberger’s availability.
As if to illustrate a point, Suggs brought up the time he injured his right shoulder in a 2008 playoff game against Tennessee and was listed as questionable the following week for Baltimore’s game in Pittsburgh for the AFC championship.
“Remember I came out with the (sling) on my shoulder and I’m like, ‘Uh, I’m not sure if I’m going to play?”’ Suggs said.
He then made a face that made it clear he had no intention of missing that game. Not only did Suggs play, but he had two sacks in a 23-14 defeat.
That’s how it is when Baltimore faces Pittsburgh. Watching from the sideline is more painful than playing with an injury, which explains why injured Ravens Le’Ron McClain (ankle sprain), Michael Oher (sprained knee) and Dawan Landry (concussion) are diligently working to maintain their places in the starting lineup.
“The hairs on your back grow when you get a Baltimore-Steelers type of game,” Suggs said. “Whoever the best is in November and December usually gets the candy.”
This one is for first place in the AFC North. Baltimore (8-3) won the first meeting, but that was when Roethlisberger was serving a suspension, leaving Pittsburgh (8-3) to rely on backup Charlie Batch.
In the rematch, Roethlisberger will do his best to stay out of Suggs’ grasp.
“You always have to have your head on a swivel when he’s coming,” the quarterback said.
Suggs had sacks in three straight games – his longest run since 2007 – before being held without one in Sunday’s 17-10 win over Tampa Bay. But he has a team-high 7 1/2 sacks for the season and is a disruptive force even when he doesn’t snag the quarterback.
“We didn’t get the sacks in the last game and yet we got a lot of pressures and he was really a part of that,” coach John Harbaugh said. “I’m hoping more of those come. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but he’s been rushing well.”
Suggs’ ability to race around the corner and tackle the quarterback is the main reason why he received a six-year, $63 million contract in July 2009. But his game is more than just sacks. Suggs ranks third in Ravens history with 575 tackles, is the team career leader in forced fumbles (21) and has five career interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
“When I first got here, that’s all I wanted, was sacks,” Suggs said. “But then a certain defensive coordinator (Rex Ryan) and a couple of guys said, ‘You don’t want to be labeled as just a pass rusher. You want to do everything – you want to stop the run, you want to drop (back), you want to have all that on your resume.”
Eight seasons and three Pro Bowls later, Suggs says, “I can do all things.”
And teammate Ray Lewis agreed.
“I just think Sizzle has always been Sizzle, whether you’re counting sacks or not,” Lewis said. “That’s somebody, no matter how many sacks he’s got, he’s going to give you everything he has regardless. What he does for us in the run game is unbelievable. He just gets after people.”
This week more than ever.
“The game is already started. The chess match is already being played – trying to feel your opponent out, what they’re going to do,” Suggs said. “We love it. That’s why this is the biggest rivalry in sports. It’s just going to be fun.”