Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer 293d

Eric Weddle: You don't become a Raven until you beat the Steelers

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Free safety Eric Weddle indicated that Sunday's game with the Pittsburgh Steelers is more than a rivalry game. It's a rite of passage for the Baltimore Ravens.

"It’s intense, it’s physical, it’s heart-pumping every play," said Weddle, who is in his second season with the Ravens. "You just, as a player, you’re so locked in and laser focused, that this play can make the difference between winning and losing. [I’m] sharing that with the young guys that, you don’t really become a Raven until you play in this game and you win against the Steelers."

There will be plenty of players trying to "become a Raven" on Sunday. Nearly half the players on Baltimore's 53-man roster -- 21, to be exact -- are lining up against the Steelers as a member of the Ravens for the first time, including first-round pick Marlon Humphrey.

"When I got up here, not knowing a lot about this organization, a lot of the first things I heard were, 'Beat the Steelers,'" Humphrey said. "I realized right then this rivalry was something serious."

Tight end Ben Watson didn't face the Steelers in his first season with the Ravens because of an Achilles injury. While in Baltimore last year, he remembered driving down the road to take his daughter to ballet and seeing people with their Ravens jersey on six days before the Steelers game.

"I know what this game means to the city," Watson said. "Most importantly, I know what this game means to the guys in our locker room."

This rivalry also is known for having games determined by the slimmest of margins. Nearly every Ravens-Steelers game is decided in the final minute.

Under coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens have played 21 games against Pittsburgh (including playoffs) and 16 of them (76 percent) have been decided by one score. Also, in this rivalry since 2008, the Ravens have won 11 times and the Steelers have come out on top 10 times.

For linebacker Terrell Suggs, Steelers week means getting an extra lift in the weight room.

"This is, I would say, the biggest rivalry in the NFL," Suggs said. "It is definitely the most physical rivalry in the NFL, and it is because of the two teams’ style of play. You don’t cross paths without some things in common. We respect them, but we also know what it is."

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