Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey received high praise from a division rival

It is one thing to earn the respect of one’s teammates and peers around the league, but it is an entirely different honor when a player that plays for a bitter division archrival signs your praises. That is exactly what happened to Baltimore Ravens First-Team All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey when Pro Bowl wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers said in a Redditt “Ask Me Anything” when asked about the hardest defender that he’s faced.

“Great player, big defender, plays the ball really well, smart, instinctive,” Smith-Schuster said. “He has it all as a [defensive back]! Love batting with him.”

The two players came into the league in 2017 as early-round picks and have faced off twice a year ever since. In their two meetings last season and Humphrey followed Smith-Schuster almost everywhere he went whether it was out wide or in the slot and was a part of the effort that limited the star receiver to nine receptions on 13 targets for just 81 yards combined.

Baltimore came out on top in both contests, completing the season sweep, and in the first meeting of the two teams last year in Week Five, it was Humphrey that almost single-handedly helped seal the win.

He punched the ball out of the grasps of Smith-Schuster who had picked up enough yards to not only move the chains but also into Ravens territory and then proceeded to recover the fumble which set up kicker Justin Tucker for a 46-yard game-winning field goal that secured the 26-23 overtime victory for the Ravens.

In addition to earning Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro honors, Humphrey was voted No.86 on the NFL Network’s annual “Top 100 Players” list for the 2020 season. Smith-Schuster made his debut on the list last year at No.47 but didn’t make the cut this year. Nevertheless, they are both two of the bright young stars on their respective sides of the ball and are viewed among the best at their positions. Both players play a physical brand of football that makes them perfectly suited for this rivalry and for the division.

The Ravens versus Steelers rivalry is not only the cream of the crop in the black and blue division of the AFC North, it is still arguably the fiercest rivalry in the entire league dating back over a decade.

Back in the early days and during the heyday of the rivalry, the golden age some might even say, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player from either team that had a kind word to say about a player from the other side.

However, the days of all-time greats like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs squaring off with Hines Ward Ben Roethlisberger, Jerome Bettis, and Troy Polamalu are long gone and the new generation is more congratulatory of friends and foes alike and is much more outspoken about their mutual respect and adoration for each other’s game.

In fact, only Roethlisberger remains from the generation of players that helped breathe life into the mutual hatred based on a combination of mutual respect and genuine dislike that spawned one of the greatest modern-day sports rivalries.

Smith Schuster didn’t have Roethlisberger throwing him the ball in either game last year because the 16-year veteran quarterback and two-time Superbowl champion went down with an elbow injury in the second game of the year and missed the remainder of the season.

Pittsburgh is viewed as Baltimore’s chief competition to prevent them from winning a third straight division title and possibly even from achieving the ultimate prize. One thing is for certain and that is that Humphrey and Smith-Schuster will play vital roles in how it all unfolds.

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