PITTSBURGH -- Regardless of what team you root for, I encourage Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers fans to savor every moment of Saturday's divisional playoff game. This might be the last time you see important veterans from both teams compete in this rivalry with so much at stake.
Accomplished players such as Ray Lewis, Hines Ward, Ed Reed, James Farrior, Derrick Mason, Casey Hampton, Kelly Gregg and Brett Keisel will not play forever. Ward, 34, said this week that he only has "one or two years" left of football. The other aforementioned veterans, all 32 or older, are probably not far behind.
There are eight current Pro Bowlers in this game, several future Hall of Famers and a few more who will go down as some of the best players of this era. And today they will all compete with everything on the line.
Games like this don't happen often, AFC North fans. Who knows? We might not see this again for another two ... five ... or 10 years.
Rest assured, the Ravens-Steelers rivalry will go on and remain strong. Several seasons from now we'll be talking about Haloti Ngata versus Maurkice Pouncey, LaMarr Woodley versus Michael Oher, and Mike Wallace, Joe Flacco, Lawrence Timmons, Ray Rice and Rashard Mendenhall. The next generation of Steelers and Ravens will do a great job of carrying the mantle.
But battle-tested vets like Lewis, Ward, Reed, Farrior, Mason, Hampton, etc. ... will always be remembered as part of that first generation who started the Steelers-Ravens rivalry and made it what it is today. Most will be back for the 2011 regular season, but there's no guarantee any will hang around long enough to meet again in the playoffs.
So enjoy today's events, Ravens and Steelers fans. Win or lose, do not take this game for granted.