Animosity. Actually it's probably more like hatred. Steelers versus Ravens. It's the kind of intense rivalry that football fans crave. Yet, is it possible that we may be seeing a different kind of Steelers/Ravens game this year and in the future? Will passionate players truly conform to the new rules that the league has instated?
According to Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, the answer is no. In a recent issue of Sports Illustrated, he said, "I've been playing this game for 20 years. Everything is instinctive for me. But when the rules changes are this drastic, I don't think you can conform yourself, because then you'll get beat, and that's worse than getting a fine."
And isn't hard hitting what football is about after all? That is what sells tickets and gets fans involved in the game. Slowly but surely, the essence of the game is slipping away. Today's football player trains year round to be the toughest physical specimen possible. They push their body to it's limits mentally and physically in order to play the game that they love. For the Steelers and the Ravens, each time they meet is the final test- the event they've been preparing for since Day 1 of the offseason. It is the time to exert a type of energy that is hard to replicate.
Polamalu knew exactly what he was getting himself into when he decided to be a football player. There is an unspoken acceptance of the way the game is. It's like he signed an invisible contract that may have looked something like this:
I, Troy Polamalu, understand that football is by nature, an extremely dangerous sport, and that I may possibly sustain life-threatening injuries. I am aware of the risks associated with the sport and will take the proper precautions by wearing protective equipment.
It is unfair to think that these grown men should have to change the way they play the game because someone thought it was getting too violent. It's the same game that it was when the Steel Curtain played in the 1970's. Mean Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, Dwight White. They are synonymous with the hard-nosed level of play that is expected from each and every football player.
I can hardly picture Ray Lewis and James Harrison stepping out on the field with tutus and ballet flats on Sunday.