Former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, Joey Porter was a fierce pass rusher and the emotional leader of the 2005 Steelers Super Bowl XL championship team. Porter also earned a reputation for being one of the biggest trash talkers in the NFL, with his most memorable moments coming on that 2005 postseason run, calling the Indianapolis Colts soft and targeting Seattle Seahawks tight end, Jerramy Stevens for guaranteeing a Seattle victory.
The Pittsburgh Steelers also have a historic rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens, with the two franchises battling for AFC North supremacy and the most physical football in the NFL this millennium. When you mix a deep-seeded hatred on the field between the two teams, you are bound for some incredible stories ranging from the Ravens putting a bounty on Hines Ward in 2008, Shannon Sharpe calling Plaxico Burress “Plexiglass” in 2001, and Ben Roethlisberger beating the Ravens after a broken nose in 2010. But when you add Porter and Ray Lewis into the mix, you know they would be involved in the best story of the rivalry.
The 2003 season literally started as a pain in the butt for Porter, who was shot in the rear end in Denver after attending a game between his alma mater Colorado State play their top rival, Colorado. It occurred in the parking lot and was considered to be a random shooting outside a night club, and it sidelined Porter for the Steelers season opener vs. the Ravens.
Porter and Lewis started jawing during pregame when Lewis tried to establish dominance at Heinz Field, something that did not sit well with Porter.
Troy Polamalu, per Polamalu: The Inspirational Story of Pittsburgh Steelers Safety Troy Polamalu by Jim Wexell was quoted saying:
“Joey Porter wouldn’t take crap from anybody. When people came to our field, they knew this was our home field. Nobody was going to mess with us.”
Things escalated throughout the game and took off when Lewis tackled Amos Zereoue for no gain in the second quarter, then kicked his right leg – mimicking Porter’s trademark celebration when making a big play. Porter did not take very well to Lewis’ action and was not at all hesitant about calling Lewis out for it. He didn’t pull any punches when it came to the allegations of Lewis’ connections to a murder in Atlanta the week of Super Bowl XXXIV.
Joey Porter, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“I thought he kind of disrespected me. He came out here, he’s doing the boot and telling me this is his house. I think that’s negative. You don’t come and disrespect a man who’s hurt. Why are you worried about me? I’m not even playing. Why are you imitating me? That let me know he doesn’t care. There were times when he was in trouble with the law, his shoulder was hurt, and I went over there and shook his hand and said, ‘Get through it.’ Yet, he wants to make fun of me being hurt? I take that like a slap in the face. You never kick a man when he’s down.”
The slight was felt by the entire Steelers defense, and it inspired the team to cruise to a dominant performance and dismantling of the Ravens, 34-15. While Lewis was credited with 9 tackles, he barely made any impact as Tommy Maddox shredded the Ravens defense all day, and Porter took a stab at Lewis’ padded tackle statistics.
Joey Porter, per ESPN.com:
“He didn’t make a play all day, He caught himself doing the boot, he made one tackle. He’s running around there, running his mouth, doing all that, but if you watch him on film and really look, where was Ray Lewis? He was nowhere to be found. I could have tackled the water boy and had as many tackles as him. He didn’t do nothing today. He’s all mouth. When you talk like that, that’s what happens: You get hit in the mouth. He’s over there crying now, thinking about what went wrong. You got your [rear end] whipped, that’s what.”
Ray Lewis, who missed the majority of 2002 with a shoulder injury, was told of Porter’s comments and made it personal by dismissing Porter’s accomplishments as a player, including being a First Team All-Pro in his third season as a starter in 2002:
“Why would I argue with Joey Porter? He’s done nothing in this league.”
“The Bus Incident” between the Steelers and Ravens
What happened next depends on who you talk to. It was reported by Chris Mortensen on ESPN that Joey Porter knocked on the Ravens team bus after the game to call Lewis out. Mortensen also reported that Lewis came off the bus and David Modell had to separate the players.
However, this was rebutted strongly by Porter, who said that words were exchanged, but were no closer than 50 feet away from the buses. While Ed Bouchette confirmed that Porter did get into a shouting match near the Ravens’ bus, the reality is that it is more urban legend than fact as claims were made by the Ravens that Porter rounded up some teammates (none were confirmed), but claimed that Burress and Jerome Bettis refused to back Porter up because “they had to play against Ray Lewis again and didn’t want him angry for that game.”
Whether it did or did not happen, the Steelers-Ravens rivalry would only heat up and even took a crazy turn that same season, as a Ravens victory over the Steelers in the finale resulted in an outcome that would haunt the Ravens for two decades.
Porter ultimately made sure Lewis never forgot his name as two years later, it was the Steelers as Super Bowl Champions while the Ravens watched.
What was your favorite Porter memory or rivalry moment? Leave a comment below.