What makes Ravens-Steelers so compelling? A history lesson before rivarly renews

The NFL’s fiercest rivalry resumes on, of all days, Christmas.

No, Steelers-Ravens never went anywhere, but the AFC North border war had lost a bit of its luster in recent years, thanks to the retirement of some marquee names from both teams (Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward), injuries suffered by both starting quarterbacks in recent years and the hostilities the Steelers have recently developed with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens have also won the last four games (and six of seven) against Pittsburgh.

But it could be back with a vengeance given the AFC North title is at stake Sunday afternoon.

The Steelers (9-5) can clinch the division with a win. But Baltimore (8-6), which won the first meeting between the teams in November, will take control of the AFC North with a win because it will have the season sweep as a decisive tiebreaker heading into Week 17.

So as we prepare for what should be another memorable game in a series filled with them, let’s look back at what has made this rivalry so great.

The stars: Some of the greatest defensive players in recent generations have defined this matchup, from Lewis, Reed and Terrell Suggs with the Ravens to James Harrison, Casey Hampton and Polamalu for the…