Gradkowskis on opposite sides of rivalry

Bruce Gradkowski, left, shakes hands with his brother, Baltimore Ravens guard Gino Gradkowski. AP Photo/Michael Keating

PITTSBURGH -- The lines of communication between Bruce Gradkowski and his younger brother, Gino, were not cut this week even though the two find themselves on opposite sides of a black-and-blue rivalry.

“We talked early on in the week,” Bruce Gradkowski said, “and I had him on my radio show.”

The older Gradkowski, who backs up Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, gets his first up-close look at Baltimore Ravens--Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Gino Gradkowski, meanwhile, will find himself in the thick of one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries.

The younger Gradkowski is in his first season as the Ravens’ starter at center. And no one is prouder of him than his big -- well, older -- brother.

“He’s doing a great job and is part of a great organization so I’m happy for him,” Bruce Gradkowski said. “I told him I want him to do well except for this week. As long as we’re doing better than them I’m fine.”

The two brothers are close in every way except for size. Bruce, a record-setting quarterback at Seton-LaSalle High School in Pittsburgh, is listed at 6-1 and 220 pounds. Gino Gradkowski, who also starred at Seton-LaSalle and Delaware before getting drafted in the fourth round by the Ravens in 2012, is listed at 6-3 and 300 pounds.

The difference in body types actually bridged the six years that separate the two brothers when they were growing up in Pittsburgh.

Bruce Gradkowski remembers Gino suiting up with his youth-league football team when they were ages 10 and 4, respectively, because the latter was so big.

“We’d finish our lap around the lap and start stretching and Gino in his full pads would still be doing his lap,” Gradkowski said with a laugh. “He was always around when I was growing up. He was at all of the games. He remembers being a young guy coming to all of my Toledo games. He had to just keep coming along with his older cousins and his older brother and he developed and grew and worked hard.”

The game on Sunday will probably be hardest on the Gradkowski brothers’ parents because it will divide loyalties. But it will be rather lopsided when it comes to which Gradkowski has the bigger cheering section at Heinz Field.

“I know my wife, my cousins they’ll have their black and gold on,” Bruce Gradkowski said with a laugh. “It’s an exciting week for our family. Besides that, this is a huge rivalry and I’m excited to be a part of it. This just adds a little more fuel to the fire.”