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Steelers healthy, Ravens ailing
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin routinely starts his weekly news conference by running down his injury list. The last couple of weeks, that's taken only a few seconds.
The Steelers are right where every NFL team wants to be in January — not only in the conference championship game, but healthy and fairly well-rested. They're hoping it makes a major difference against the beaten-up Ravens in the AFC championship game Sunday.
At least on Wednesday, there was no comparison between the two — health-wise, that is.
The Ravens' injury list: Linebacker Antwan Barnes (shoulder, out), defensive tackle Justin Bannan (foot), wide receiver Mark Clayton (thigh), linebacker Jarret Johnson (calf), wide receiver Derrick Mason (knee), fullback Le'Ron McClain (ankle), cornerback Samari Rolle (thigh), linebacker Terrell Suggs (shoulder).
The Steelers' list: Center Justin Hartwig (knee) and safety Troy Polamalu (calf), both of whom are expected to play.
"It kind of would put them in a disadvantage out there, not having a veteran guy like Samari," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said. "We're healthy and they're banged up, and hopefully we can go out there and exploit that."
Suggs' status also is uncertain, but Ward is convinced he will play.
"Suggs, he's a talent, next to Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, he's really the heart and soul," Ward said. "He's the one who gets guys going. He's got a constant motor and just doesn't stop. I'll bet anything he's going to be on the field."
Still, there often is a difference between playing well and playing hurt, and that's where the Steelers are hoping they own the edge. They remember last season when they started 9-3, were thinned by injuries and lost four of their final five, including a wild-card game to Jacksonville.
Now, the Steelers are as healthy as they've been since their opener, as evidenced by a running game that ranked lowly all season but has gained 341 yards in the last two games.
Parker ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns against San Diego, the most playoff yards by a Steelers back in 33 years.
It's easy to understand Parker's importance to the Steelers. Their playoff record with him in the lineup since 2004: 5-0. Without him: 0-1.
The Steelers certainly need to get Parker going against the Ravens because, as Ward said, the Steelers gets out of character when the running game doesn't set up the passing game.
But the Ravens have effectively controlled Parker, limiting him to a 43 yards per game average and no 100-yard games in six games.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP WHAT: Eagles (11-6-1) at Cardinals (11-7).
WHEN: 3 p.m.
TV: Fox 35 43.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP WHAT: Ravens (13-5) at Steelers (13-4),
WHEN: 6:30 p.m.
TV: CBS 3 6.
Online For more on the playoffs, visit dailypress.com/ nflplayoffsplus.