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Steelers

Steelers not fazed by Billick's comments

Jerry DiPaola
| Sunday, Aug. 31, 2003

The buzz swirling over the start of the NFL regular season and Steelers' opener against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 7 at Heinz Field gets louder every day.

Give Ravens coach Brian Billick credit for getting the madness started early.

Billick triggered it when he spoke to a group of more than 700 people at a charity banquet in Westminster, Md., and predicted the Ravens would unseat the Steelers as champions of the AFC North.

Billick, who was the featured speaker at an event that raised money for abused children and at-risk families in Maryland, already is looking past the first game and setting his sights on the regular-season finale between the teams Dec. 28 in Baltimore. That's when he said the Steelers' one-year reign as AFC North champion will end.

"I think the AFC is for one of any number of teams to have, and it's our intention to be one of those teams," he said in a story reported on the Ravens' Web site. "The division's going to have a different feel to it, but I'm excited for Pittsburgh to have to come back here the last game on a Sunday night and lose the (AFC North) to us."

Billick, obviously, was telling the large group of donors and Ravens fans what they wanted to hear, but he also has repeated similar thoughts to reporters at other times and venues during the preseason.

"That's his prediction," Steelers two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Hines Ward said. "We'll see come next week. Whatever motivates his team to go out there and do whatever it takes to win. Talk is talk. We're going to go out this Sunday and see."

Running back Jerome Bettis said Billick has the right to say what he believes, but Bettis said he might be a little premature.

"You have to think positive and I don't fault him for that," Bettis said, "but it's a long way away to make that prediction. A lot of things can happen between now and then. Obviously, that means he's thinking about us."

Bettis said the Steelers were eager to meet their AFC North rivals in the opener, even before Billick opened his mouth. The Steelers own a four-game winning streak against the Ravens and haven't lost in Baltimore since 1996.

"(Playing Baltimore) makes everything that much easier," Bettis said. "(Steelers coach Bill Cowher) doesn't have to worry about getting us up or about us being motivated or anything like that. Right now, we're ready to go."

Ward and Bettis said they expect a physical game.

"Every team we play in this division," Bettis said, "it's a bloodbath."

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