|Motivated? For Ravens? Playoff-assured Steelers say no problem|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 26 December 2007 14:35|
To the Steelers (10-5), no game against the Ravens (4-11) is inconsequential, even if Pittsburgh can claim nothing more by winning than a higher seeding in the AFC playoffs that begin Jan. 5.
``I was under the impression I was playing the whole game,'' Davenport said Wednesday, after the Steelers practiced for the first time in a week. ``That's something new to me.''
Wide receiver Hines Ward and defensive end Brett Keisel also said they're going into this game as if it were like any other - even if it isn't, not with Pittsburgh already assured a division title and at least one home playoff game.
``I think we're going to play,'' Keisel said. ``From everything I've heard, we're going to play and try to win the game and finish out the season right.''
To the Steelers, that means going into the playoffs with some momentum after dropping two of their last three. They also want to end their long losing streak in Baltimore - they've lost four in a row there - and sweep all six games against AFC North rivals.
There's more to play for, too: Should the Steelers win and the Raiders (4-11) upset the Chargers (10-5), Pittsburgh - and not San Diego - would be No. 3 rather than No. 4 in the AFC playoffs.
That could prove significant because the fourth-seeded team must play streaking Jacksonville (11-4) next weekend, with the winner likely facing New England (15-0) in the divisional round.
The third-seeded team will play Cleveland (9-6) or Tennessee (9-6) next weekend and, more than likely, Indianapolis (13-2) the weekend after.
``It's a single-elimination tournament and we've got to come into this thing rolling and that's why we're approaching this week the way we are,'' Keisel said.
That approach is to treat the game, at least publicly, like any game. Coach Mike Tomlin, however, is dropping hints some of his less-than-healthy regulars might get some time off, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (sprained ankle) and safety Troy Polamalu (knee).
It seems unlikely Tomlin will sit down a majority of his starters, not with the Steelers already without two key injured regulars the rest of the way in running back Willie Parker (broken leg) and defensive end Aaron Smith (torn biceps).
The Steelers haven't played since beating St. Louis 41-24 on Dec. 20, so any player sitting out Sunday would be idle for more than two weeks going into the playoffs. With the way New England, Indianapolis and Jacksonville are playing, that might not be the ideal approach.
``He (Tomlin) knows what's best for the team,'' Ward said.
The Steelers haven't had an easier game all season than their 37-7 rout of Baltimore on Nov. 5, when Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes before halftime. Afterward, Ravens wide receiver Bart Scott said he ``threatened'' Ward and, when he saw him again Sunday, planned to ``threaten him'' again.
Scott laughed that off Wednesday, saying, ``I was just upset with Hines at the time. Once I looked back and analyzed it, I said, `Hey, I love him.' ``
A feeling not shared by many Ravens and Steelers, especially given the one-sided scores in their recent games. Last season, the Ravens won 27-0 in Baltimore and 31-7 in Pittsburgh, a game that ended up putting the Steelers out of the playoffs.
``It (this game) matters to us,'' Roethlisberger said. ``It's Baltimore.''