Billick: McNair will be ready for Steelers

OWINGS MILLS -- Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick expressed confidence Monday that quarterback Steve McNair will be under center this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wake of injuring his throwing hand, but acknowledged that the three-time Pro Bowl passer might be limited in practice this week.

McNair was forced out of a 27-17 win over the Cleveland Browns following the Ravens' second series when the palm of his right hand was accidentally stepped on and punctured by 6-foot-1, 254-pound middle linebacker Andra Davis. Although X-rays were ruled negative and McNair only suffered soft-tissue damage, the cut was irritated when he attempted to take snaps on the sideline. McNair's workload in practice could be abbreviated or he might work out of the shotgun formation.

"I'll have to see exactly how it feels on Wednesday," said Billick in response to a question about his plans for McNair. "Obviously, I don't want to beat on it anymore."

With backup Kyle Boller throwing two touchdowns and 238 yards along with an interception and a fumble, Billick emphasized that he didn't consider reinserting McNair when Cleveland tied the game at 17 in the third quarter.

Without McNair in the lineup for the second time this season, Baltimore (11-3) still clinched a playoff berth with its seventh win in its past eight games while remaining in the hunt for a first-round bye and the top overall record in the AFC.

"Sixty snaps the while game would do nothing but irritate that," Billick said. "I don't know if that would have been in our best interest in the long term, the long term being next week and the week after next.

"No one panicked, no one blinked. It was Kyle's in, let's go. They adjusted very readily." McNair has solidified a position that had been a constant issue during Billick's eight-year tenure. He has engineered comeback victories over the Browns, San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans since being acquired in June for a fourth-round draft pick from the Titans. Shortly after the game, McNair stressed that he could have returned if it had been absolutely necessary and said he will certainly play against the Steelers.

"I think I'll be all right, I just have to get the soreness out of it," "I'm quite sure I'll be ready."

Billick said that McNair, who donned a headset on the sidelines after Boller entered the game, didn't lobby to go back in even when the score was tied.

"Steve was certainly ready to go back in should something have happened to Kyle, so that was a comfort zone," Billick said. "It was my call. He was ready to go, but I thought it was the prudent thing to do and now I'm glad we did.

"I think he recognized that he didn't want to put the team at risk. I think he was glad we were able to do something else, because he recognized it will heal much quicker."

Meanwhile, Billick indicated that no players have been ruled out medically for Sunday's game at Heinz Field from an injured list that includes cornerback Samari Rolle (shoulder sprain and stinger), tight end Todd Heap (thigh contusion), nickel back Corey Ivy (concussion) and left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (hyperextended toe).

Rolle appears to be the most serious injury, and his left arm was in a sling after the game. He reportedly text messaged former teammate turned television analyst Deion Sanders that he should be back soon.

"There's going to be a lot of guys that we are going to have to nurse throughout the week," Billick said. "Right now, I'm not aware of anyone that would definitely be ruled out. We're in pretty good shape that way."

Apparently, in more ways than one. The Ravens tied their franchise record for their earliest clinched playoff berth, matching the time for their 2000 Super Bowl championship team. Now, they want to finish the regular season strong in order to hit the postseason in stride. "It's good to know that we're in the playoffs," said running back Jamal Lewis, who has scored six touchdowns in the past five games and rushed for 109 yards against the Browns. "We haven't peaked yet. We haven't played our best football, but we're on our way."

Despite three turnovers given away by the team with the NFL's top turnover margin and two touchdowns allowed by a banged-up secondary as Cleveland went after cornerback Evan Oglesby, the Ravens remain in position to accomplish their goals.

"Winning cures everything," linebacker Adalius Thomas said. "If it doesn't cost you, you don't have the pain of regret. We know that some of the mistakes we did make, they will cost us later, so we want to correct that."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

Ravens Insider Top Stories