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Old rivals spearhead punishing defenses

| Monday, Nov. 5, 2007

Detroit natives Larry Foote and Bart Scott will chat before the AFC North showdown between the Steelers and Ravens -- and trash-talk during it.

"He's up there with me as far as trash-talk," said Foote, who has become arguably the preeminent Steeler in that department since Joey Porter's departure.

The loquacious linebackers do more than satisfy a love for yapping when they are on the field, and each figures to be in the middle of the action (and talk) tonight when two hard-hitting teams that don't particularly care for one another play in front of a national TV audience.

Foote has been one of the Steelers' leading tacklers since breaking into the starting lineup in 2004. Scott emerged as a Pro Bowler last season, his second as a starter, when he had 135 tackles and recorded 9 1/2 sacks.

Ben Roethlisberger doesn't need to ask why Scott's teammates call him "Mad Backer."

A blitzing Scott delivered a ferocious hit to Roethlisberger in the teams' first meeting a year ago, and his sack briefly knocked the Steelers' quarterback out of the game.

The play also encapsulated how badly the Ravens beat the Steelers twice last season. Baltimore won both games by a combined score of 58-7.

As for the nickname that defensive end Terrell Suggs gave Scott, it stems from the latter's days as a special teams terror for the Ravens.

"I would always be coming off the field exchanging some words with somebody," Scott said. "(Suggs) was like, 'Why are you so mean• Why are you always mad?"

The edge with which Scott plays can be traced to when his and Foote's paths diverged after the two were teammates in a high school All-Star game.

Quite stingy
Yards and points might be hard to come by tonight when the Ravens and Steelers play at Heinz Field. The teams feature stout defenses that are among the best in the NFL. Here is where they rank per game in some key categories (NFL rank in parentheses):
Steelers Ravens
256.9 (1) Yards 268.0 (2)
13.0 (1) Points allowed 17.0 (8)
71.9 (2) Rushing yards 77.4 (4)

Foote went to the University of Michigan and ended up starring for the Wolverines. Scott, meanwhile, had to settle for accepting a scholarship to Southern Illinois after the big schools that had been recruiting him backed off because of a low SAT score.

He made the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2002 but had to play primarily on special teams for three seasons before getting an opportunity at outside linebacker.

Scott has proven to be been a perfect fit on an attacking Baltimore defense that plays with plenty of attitude.

"He is a true football player," Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis said.

"He's getting his just due now," Foote said. "I'm always pumping him up."

As much pride as Foote has in Scott, who is also from the east side of Detroit, there is no denying the rivalry between the two.

"It's always been a big thing in Detroit: Who was the better linebacker, me or Larry Foote?" Scott said. "He went to Michigan, so he won the college battle. But I've had a chance to catch up."

Not that Foote, who has 30 tackles, two forced fumbles, a sack and an interception this season, is conceding that Scott has passed him.

"He was telling Willie Parker at the Pro Bowl (in February) he's better than me," Foote said with a smile, "so I'm going to go ahead and give him some (verbal) shots this year."

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