OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- When Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers face the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, they will line up against a revamped defense that they had a hand in building.
In the most recent installment of this AFC North rivalry, the Ravens couldn't stop Roethlisberger from marching the Steelers down the field, which resulted in another division title for Pittsburgh and the end of Baltimore's playoff hopes.
The winning score -- Antonio Brown powering past Eric Weddle and C.J. Mosley for a 4-yard touchdown with 9 seconds left -- fueled everything the Ravens did this offseason and became the catalyst for a major investment in defense.
“Obviously, the guys that have played in that game remember that vividly and being so close to reaching your goals and not getting it done," Weddle said of the 31-27 loss. "I’ll tell you this: We’ve never forgotten that play, that game. We’ve made strides this offseason of building our team to get in that situation and win the game. When we get on the field on Sunday, our mind is to win the game and not hope to lose the game. I think we’ve added players -- free agency, in the draft -- to build our team for that situation that will come, and we’ll be ready for it and ready to go win the game."
How much do the Ravens not want to relive that Christmas night meltdown? Take a look at the resources Baltimore has devoted to the defense this offseason.
The team spent $56.75 million in guaranteed money on its defense in free agency. Baltimore signed Tony Jefferson, the top available safety; re-signed defensive tackle Brandon Williams, the No. 1 free agent in ESPN's rankings; and brought in Brandon Carr, a nine-year starting cornerback.
The Ravens also used their first four draft picks this year on defensive players, adding cornerback Marlon Humphrey, pass-rushers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, and defensive end Chris Wormley in the first three rounds.
Even these newcomers know the importance of that one drive and play to this franchise.
"You can tell how much sourness is in their mouths, because I can feel it," Jefferson said. "That's been our main focus since then, is finishing. It started from that game."
The Ravens defense showed it has the potential to be special in the first two weeks of the season, when it forced 10 turnovers against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. But the defense looked ordinary last Sunday, when blown assignments, lack of a pass rush and low intensity all led to Baltimore giving up 44 points to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But throughout the week, there hasn't been much talk about rebounding from that disastrous London trip. What's been on the minds of the defenders is redeeming themselves from that December night at Heinz Field.
"Any time your division rival knocks you out of the playoffs, it is going to linger with you for a long time -- until you play them again," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "The wound is still fresh, and we are looking forward to playing better."
It was nine months ago when Kyle Juszczyk’s high-effort touchdown gave the Ravens a 27-24 lead in Pittsburgh. Baltimore was 1 minute, 18 seconds away from controlling the AFC North and its playoff fate.
Then Roethlisberger completed 8 of 10 passes (the incompletions were spikes to stop the clock) for 75 yards. His final pass went to Brown, whose lunging touchdown put Pittsburgh in the postseason and became the origin of Baltimore's new-look defense.
"You never forget the bad plays or the plays that are so monumental to your season," Weddle said. "So, motivation? I think I’m the most motivated guy. Do I look back at that play? You know, quite honestly, the first time I saw it was in the commercial, which was kind of funny, because I lived it. So I don’t really need to see it again. But I’ll be ready for that situation, and I hope it comes, and I’ll make it."