Ravens linebacker Bart Scott hasn't done much of anything since his Pro Bowl season of 2006. The division's short-but-explosive-linebacker-with-a-ginormous-chip-on-his-shoulder award has been transferred to Steelers' linebacker James Harrison. Is that the exact motivation Scott needs to make an impact in this game again?
On a crisp and clear Christmas Eve morning of 2006 in Baltimore, the Ravens gave the Steelers an early present - they ended their season one year after winning the Super Bowl. They returned the favor from the 2001 season, after the Steelers lambasted the defending champion Ravens 27-10 in the Divisional round of the AFC Playoffs.
That was the last year that saw a Ravens playoff win (shhh...they don't like it when you remind them of that), and it was the last year they did not have Scott on their roster. Scott, the bad-ass-and-attitude linebacker from Southern Illinois is a tough dude, and he loves telling people how tough he is. He even refers to himself as The Madbacker.
To his credit, Scott walked the self-imposed walk on that Christmas Eve in 2006. Blitzing free from his outside (mad)linebacker position, he gave Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger the biggest smackdown of his career en route to a huge Ravens victory.
Roethlisberger got even with a five-touchdown performance last year on Monday Night, the same night the Steelers honored their 75th Anniversary team. It was the same night the eerily similar Harrison had quite possibly the best individual defensive performance in team history.
Harrison finished with 10 tackles, 3.5 sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, officially passing Scott as the resident badass of the AFC North.
The ever-loquacious Ravens take exception to that, though. They are back among the defensive leaders of the NFL. Any team worth its salt would be, considering they've only played Cincinnati and Cleveland - a combined 0-6 - but with the Steelers obvious protection problems last week at Philadelphia, there's no doubt Scott, LB Terrell Suggs and the rest of the Ravens pass rush is licking their chops at the chance to provide a Scottish smack on Roethlisberger again.
One issue of concern with Scott is the fact he's had one sack in his past 18 games. He creates disruption, and plays with serious intensity, but his talk hasn't matched his play over the past season and change.
Either way, grudge matches in the NFL like Baltimore v. Pittsburgh comes down to attitude. While each team has been on the winning side of blowouts the past two seasons, the games are usually competitive, defensive affairs in which the run game is a non-factor on either side.
With Steelers RB Willie Parker out, and Ravens RB Willis McGahee suffering a corneal abrasion in last week's win over Cleveland, the younger backs of each team (Rashard Mendenhall for Pittsburgh, Le'Ron McClain and Ray Rice for the Ravens) will be more in the spotlight. Neither of these teams have had a 100-yard rusher against each other in the last eight games. Scott will be instrumental in continuing that streak, and will look to regain his Resident Badass title.
Assuming Harrison doesn't wig out and have another career performance like he did last year.