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 PITTSBURGH (AP) -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, given how physical and hard-hitting their games traditionally are.
At least on Wednesday, there was no comparison between the two - health-wise, that is:
ll Suggs (shoulder).
That's a lot of talent sitting out practice.
STEELERS: 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 Wednesday. ``We're healthy and they're banged up, and hopefully we can go out there and exploit that and try to make some plays in their secondary.''
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 (Ravens') 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. There's no way he can miss this game.''
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.
``Last year we were just really, really beat up,'' said Polamalu, who is certain he will play. ``We were worn down.''
t ranked in the lower third in the league all season but has gained 341 yards in the last two games - 165 against the Chargers in a 35-24 divisional round win Sunday.
Parker, slowed by knee and shoulder injuries since the third week of the season, ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns against San Diego, the most playoff yards by a Steelers running back in 33 years. Parker also had 116 yards against Cleveland to end the regular season Dec. 28, giving him consecutive 100-yard games for the first time since Dec. 9-16, 2007.
``I definitely feel real good. I'm about at full speed and that's really all that counts,'' Parker said.
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' offense 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. He has missed two of the last three Ravens-Steelers game, and was held to 47 yards on 14 carries last month in Baltimore.
've played. The Steelers had a bye the weekend of Oct. 12, didn't play some players the entire game against Cleveland, then had a bye the first weekend of January, when the Ravens played the Dolphins in the wild-card round.
``A long season, it takes its toll on everybody,'' Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. ``It would seem (to help the Steelers), but they're fighting for the same thing we're fighting for. It doesn't matter all the stuff we did throughout the whole season, it's going to come down to this game. It doesn't matter when you had the bye week or what weeks you had off. It's all going to be right in this one game.''
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