Six days after the Pittsburgh Steelers faced one heated AFC North rival, they play the other team in which tensions seem to most often simmer — the Baltimore Ravens.
But while the hits could indeed be as hard during Sunday night's Steelers-Ravens game as they were Monday when the Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals met, the Steelers say the overall tension between the players on the teams won't be nearly as palpable.
“There has always been a lot of respect from both organizations, from both sets of players,” linebacker Arthur Moats said of the Steelers and Ravens. “We are going to have a lot of big hits, but you never feel like it's with the malicious intent that you sometimes get when we play Cincinnati.
“With (the Ravens), they know us extremely well, we know them extremely well, we are going to compete to the bitter end… But there is always that respect level, and I feel like that's the difference between this rivalry and when we play Cincinnati.”
During the Steelers' 23-20 victory against the Bengals this past Monday night, nine personal foul flags were thrown, two players were eventually suspended for actions during it, five others were forced out of the game because of injury.
But Moats — one of the Steelers' most veteran players — said that it is the Ravens and not the Bengals are “definitely our biggest rival.”
“I feel like it's always been there, from Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, (Haloti) Ngata, (Terrell) Suggs,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “I think there's always been a — I don't want to say hatred because you want to beat that other guy — but it's two friends going at it on the playground. You battle it out and at the end of the day you shake hands and say, ‘Hey, looking forward to next year.'“
Roethlisberger said he has “no idea” why things aren't that way versus the Bengals.
“I mentioned it before the game we played Cincinnati to the production guys,” Roethlisberger said. “When you play Baltimore, you're going to get your head knocked off. They're going to knock your head off, you're going to try to knock theirs off — but you're going to help ‘em up and respect them and say, ‘Great job, let's go at it again.'
“It's kind of fun playing that kind of football game. It's not fun in the sense that your body hurts, but it's fun in the sense that there's a lot of respect between the two teams.”
The Steelers (10-2) have won the past two against the Ravens (7-5) to snap a four-game losing streak in the series. Last year on Christmas Day, the Steelers won in the final minute in a de facto AFC North championship game.
The Steelers have won six consecutive against the Bengals, including the postseason.
Boswell believes Bengals intended to injure him: To the list of everything else that went on during Monday night's game, add even more bad blood.
The Steelers' Chris Boswell believes the Bengals intentionally attempted to injure him just prior to him kicking the winning field goal.
"You're not jumping offsides that bad without trying to run into the kicker," Boswell said, in reference to Cincinnati's Josh Shaw running off the end well before the snap with 4 seconds to play in a tie game and the Steelers in position to attempt a winning 43-yard field goal.
The chaotic moments as Shaw ran unabated toward Boswell and holder Jordan Berry led to Boswell nearly injuring his kicking foot when he swung through on the try even with Shaw's body at the ball at the time of the kick. Berry held onto the ball because he saw Shaw approaching; Boswell said he was too focused on the kick to notice Shaw.
Boswell said his foot "stung" but that it didn't hurt enough for it to affect the true attempt, which came from five yards closer after the offsides penalty was assessed.
But what if Boswell's had been injured enough — even momentarily — that he needed medical attention?
"We can't kick that field goal at the end," Boswell said, "and (the Bengals) got what they want."
Boswell and Shaw shared some words after the incident, but the whole scenario was all forgotten after Boswell booted a "walk-off" winning field goal for the third time in four weeks.
"It's not an accident at all," said Boswell, who was named the AFC's special teams player of the week. "If you look in the NFL for the last two years, multiple teams have done it just to try to… either if it's running into, blocking the kick, doing something. But Seattle did it last year against the Bills, Ravens did it against us last year — and now Cincinnati."
Iloka has suspension overturned for hit on Brown: Bengals safety George Iloka had his one-game suspension overturned on Wednesday, leaving him with a $36,464.50 fine for his hit to Antonio Brown’s head.
Iloka and Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster each got a one-game suspension from the NFL in the aftermath of Pittsburgh’s penalty-filled victory. Iloka hit Brown in the head while trying to break up his game-tying touchdown catch.
Smith-Schuster was suspended for leveling linebacker Vontaze Burfict with a blindside hit and then taunting him by standing over him.
Smith-Schuster has apologized for the taunting. He’ll sit out Sunday's game vs. the Ravens.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.