When the Steelers and Ravens have their biannual meetings, both clubs are fighting for the top spot in the AFC North and playoff implications always seem to be on the line.
In 2013, things seem a little different.
The Baltimore Ravens, last year's Super Bowl champions, decided to do a makeover on both sides of the ball and are currently at 3-3 coming into Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon.
The Steelers finally got their first win in the Meadowlands against the Jets, and are 1-4, and still technically in the race for the playoffs and with some help, the division.
The Ravens could be a wild card team this season and the Steelers need a couple more wins, especially this one, to keep what may look like a bleak playoff hope alive going into week 7 of the season.
While the teams aren't exactly topping the list of elites this season, some of the faces are different on both sides.
The Ravens said goodbye to their leader, Ray Lewis, who moved into retirement, saw Ed Reed leave for Houston and Anquan Boldin heading west to San Francisco. The Steelers broke ties with James Harrison and Mike Wallace in the offseason.
Lewis' teammate and somewhat successor, Terrell Suggs, is always worth a good soundbite, did not have anything too press worthy this week.
Is 2013 an off year for the rivalry? One that has blossomed into one of the NFL's most noteworthy two games of the season. Expectations are always high for both teams, but they haven't been living up to them.
It has some importance for both. Looking at the standings, the Steelers need it slightly more than Baltimore.
If Pittsburgh loses, they drop to 1-5 and looking at their schedule, it would be a tough road to finish 11-5 or 10-6, which might be enough to get a wild card this season.
The Ravens want to keep pace with the Bengals. They lose, they're 3-4 and if Cincinnati wins, they are two games back of the division lead.
So...Yes. It still means something. Then again, isn't every game important?
Maybe it doesn't have as much hype due to the reality that it will not determine who takes over first place in the division, doesn't decide who goes to the Super Bowl, or knocks one of them out of the playoffs as the season ends.
Fans of both teams have been spoiled by all the amazing game between these two. The Batch game last season, a couple of AFC Divisional and Championship games, and some primetime classics during the regular season.
By Sunday afternoon, both fanbases will forget about the records of both teams, and will focus on the hatred for one another. The players seem to be focused on that aspect.
With the Pirates finally surpassing 82 wins and clinching their first winning season since 1992, it got me thinking, of all the great teams we remember, which team, from all the professional sports in Pittsburgh, were the worst?
Believe it or not, none of the Pirate teams from the 20 season losing streak were the worst.
Here are worst teams in the history of Pittsburgh based on winning percentage.
1952 PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Season Record: 42-112. Winning Percentage: .273. Games out of First Place. 54.5
-No hitter on this team hit .300 or better (two pitchers did, though). [Baseball References]
-Never won three or more games in a row
-Had a 10 game losing streak
- Gave up 793 runs (average 5 runs per game).
1969 PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Season Record: 1-13. Winning Percentage: .071.
-Joe Greene, the teams draft pick that year, was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
-Drafted Terry Bradshaw in the 1970 NFL Draft
-Final season playing at Pitt Stadium. Steelers returned the favor by letting the Panthers move into Heinz Field in 2001.
1983-84 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Season Record: 16-58-6. (Worst in the NHL)
Most of you know this story.
Some claim the Penguins tanked in order to land the number one pick in the 1984 NHL Draft. If they did (they probably did), than we should thank that '83-'84 team.
Mario Lemuieux was drafted and the rest is history.
If not for the last place finish, the Penguins might have been playing in a different city under a different name in the 90s.
Only good thing about that team were the gold jerseys they wore.
When Sid Bream slid into home safe, I was only 3. So I was asleep and didn't have to witness the beginning of a 20 year struggle for a winning record in Pittsburgh.
Like most kids, baseball was one of the first sports I played. Playing in the Evans City Farm League on ball fields next to the railroad tracks that ran through the town. I wasn't very good, and had a three month stint as a little league starting/relief pitcher they placed in left field most of the time who made contact with the ball less times than Brandon Inge.
The first Pirates season I can remember was "The Freak Show." The 1997 lineup that had a chance at winning the division with a team that resembled the Cleveland Indians in "Major League."
My dad had season tickets, so I remember weekend games, especially Sunday afternoons at Three Rivers Stadium. We sat along the left field line and I watched them with no thought of a certain number of losing seasons or records.
A part of growing up is learning that not everything is perfect, and that your favorite baseball team is not as good as you thought they were.
As they blew up Three Rivers Stadium and built the most beautiful ballpark for one of Major League Baseball's worst teams, I began to notice around the age of 11 that the Pirates were entering the first decade of losing seasons.
Like most season ticket holders, my dad gave up and got tired of wasting money on a loser. They say young people shouldn't be so jaded and cynical. Sadly, I became just that with the Pirates.
Saying "Yeah, I'm a Pirates fan" became a running joke, especially since I went to college in Central Pennsylvania, and the Phillies won the N.L. Pennant my freshman and sophomore year. Celebrating the Yankees 2009 World Series title was a low point.
Anyone under the age of 25 could tell you the same thing I'm saying right now. Some of us were born during the streak of division titles in the early 90s. Others have been born and raised amongst a losing team.
Nobody should shed a tear or sympathize with people my age who grew up following Pittsburgh sports.
The Steelers have played in multiple conference title games, and have won two of four Super Bowls since 1995. The Penguins have had their ups and downs in my lifetime and have raised the Stanley Cup within the last four year, but overall, they've been one of the best teams in the NHL over the last 20 years. So it was easy to leave the Pirates behind in late July and focus on the Steelers training camp and gear up for hockey season.
This season, things were different. The Steelers have been mediocre (to say the least) and have taken a backseat to the Pirates in the papers and media. The Pirates playing meaningful baseball in late September had me paying little to no attention to the Penguins as they prepared to open the 2013-14 season.
Call us bandwagoners. Shame us for walking away years ago when a losing season was guaranteed come late July. That's fine.
Baseball is like any sport. It can be a love/hare relationship. It can do a lot of negative things that make you turn away in disgust. But then there are the positives that remind you why you loved baseball as a kid.
The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates reminded us why we love baseball. Making adult me remember those days at Three Rivers as a kid. My glove in hand, the red brimmed Pirates hat they wore with the old black alternate tops, and the late, great organist, Vince Lascheid, playing a medley of songs during the pregame.
I stopped taking my glove to games when I was about 10. That red brimmed hat probably got thrown out during a closet cleaning (or didn't fit my big head anymore), and a recording of Lascheid's rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is what remains of his legacy.
Memories are a funny thing. They make you remember the good times and the bad times. There have been a lot of bad times with the Pirates in my lifetime, but this season and even the two before this one reminded me of the innocence of my youth, when the Pirates were the best thing in the world.
I would bet that you're feeling the same way too.
Thank you Pirates. For making this 24 year-old remember why baseball can be great. Especially in Pittsburgh.
It was a rational decision in both scenarios for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
If the Pirates won today, A.J. Burnett would most likely pitch Game 1 of the NLCS.
If they lost, Burnett might pitch Game 1 of the NLCS if they make it.
They lost, so A.J. is your probable pitcher for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series if the Pirates win in St. Louis Thursday evening with rookie Gerrit Cole on the mound.
Pittsburgh loves Burnett. Burnett loves pitching in Pittsburgh. He doesn't pitch well at Busch Stadium, though.
The numbers don't lie in that statement. Game 1's disaster of a start for A.J. has convinced most fans that him taking the mound in St. Louis might be a risk skipper Clint Hurdle was not willing to take.
Burnett has a "tough guy" persona that people love and has the arm to back it up. A determined veteran, who is never happy to hand the ball over to Hurdle, and has jawed with the man in charge a few times this season. They both respect one another, but in this case, Hurdle is putting the best interest of the team forward going into Wednesday's do or die game.
Not that anyone can determine who Hurdle would start in Game 1 of the NLCS, but if the Pirates were to advance, you would have to believe that he would go with Burnett. Nobody has lost confidence in him, and with seven days rest, he's the best candidate for Friday's probable first game. Unless the Pirates pull a move like the Dodgers and pitch a guy like Morton on three days rest, (which won't happen), A.J.'s the guy.
Burnett might be discouraged by getting passed over for the rookie Cole, but you hope he understands why they won't put the ball in his hand in St. Louis Wednesday. It was probably tough for Hurdle and Searage to tell him they were going with Cole.
Hopefully, we see Burnett getting a fresh start on the mound in Game 1 of the NLCS against the Braves or Dodgers. But his teammate has to pitch the game of his very young career against Wainwright and the Cardinals.