Steelers linebacker James Harrison spent the past two seasons making life difficult for many NFL offenses, none as much as the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens felt his wrath last season when the world discovered Harrison on a Monday night game. He had nine tackles, 31/2 sacks, forced three fumbles, recovered one and intercepted a pass in a 38-7 victory, one of the great defensive performances in team history. He had seven tackles in a rematch in Baltimore, a Steelers loss.
Harrison came back Sept. 29 in Heinz Field with 21/2 sacks, a forced fumble that was returned by LaMarr Woodley for a touchdown and eight more tackles in an overtime victory against Baltimore.
Harrison professes to hold no grudge against the Ravens, merely because they cut him in the summer of 2004, after his stint in NFL Europe.
"I don't feel anybody was unfair [in the way] they treated me, and everybody makes decisions on what they have and what they have to do," Harrison said yesterday. "The reason they said they let me go was that they needed a tight end.
"The tight end they picked up was Daniel Wilcox. We played NFL Europe together, and [Wilcox] is still there. They obviously needed a tight end. I don't point fault at anybody, but that's just part of the game. Just like the Steelers cut me three times, and here I am now."
The Steelers aren't the only ones who can clinch a playoff berth with a victory Sunday in Baltimore. The Ravens can, too.
Baltimore needs a little help, however, if they win. They also would need at least two other teams to lose -- the Patriots and Jets/Dolphins, or the Dolphin, Jets and Colts.
Any of those combinations would give the Ravens at least a wild-card playoff spot.
The Ravens' defense has scored touchdowns on six returns -- three by Ed Reed, two by Terrell Suggs and one by Jim Leonhard.
"You've got to be smart but you can't pull back the reins too much because then you're changing who you are," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We'll count on our defense to play great like they always do and we'll try to put some points on the board."
The Steelers' defense has two returns for touchdowns -- an interception by Deshea Townsend to beat the Cowboys Sunday, and Woodley's fumble recovery against the Ravens.
The Steelers had several players who did not practice yesterday, some injured, some getting a veteran's day off. Among the injured were fullback Carey Davis (calf), defensive end Brett Keisel (knee), safety Troy Polamalu (calf) and offensive tackle Marvel Smith (back).
Quote of the day
"I think a lot of guys are going to be limping out of there on both sides. I'm just hoping we're up on the scoreboard when we're limping out."
-- Ben Roethlisberger
Heath Miller's lost fumble Sunday after a reception was the first fumble of his four-year NFL career. ... Roethlisberger's 14 touchdown passes are three fewer than his career low and 18 short of his single-season record in 2007. ... Cornerback William Gay has 11 passes defensed, tied with Ike Taylor for the team lead even though he has started just four games. ... Not only is Harrison tied for the team sack record with 15, but he also is third with 12 special teams tackles. Harrison plays every snap on defense.
James Harrison's numbers vs. the Ravens in his past three games against them: