Ravens, Steelers. Again.

Injuries are hurting both teams, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have the mudder on their side at Heinz Field

The Baltimore Ravens blasted out an e-mail today that boasts "Numbers To Rave About."

And this was the most important:

* 9 playoff victories since 2008 are the most in the NFL.

The Ravens are a-ravin' about their recent past, which could carry into the future since the MVP of tonight's foe, the Pittsburgh Steelers, has been ruled out because of a hyperextended knee.

But Ravens Coach John Harbaugh isn't buying Le'Veon Bell's injury completely.

"When I hear, ‘Definitely he’s not going to play,’ then I’ll still be suspicious.” Harbaugh said earlier in the week.

But out Bell is, and the Ravens are that much closer to their first win at Heinz Field in the playoffs in four tries.

Then again, Bell didn't do much against the Ravens last time out -- 20 yards on 10 carries -- and the Steelers still stomped them, 43-23.

Focusing on Bell, the Ravens allowed Ben Roethlisberger to throw for 340 yards and six touchdowns.

What did the attention to Bell do for Roethlisberger?

"Bringing guys in the box leaves more 1-on-1 opportunities in the back end," Roethlisberger said, "some zone holes for tight ends and wide receivers to get into. And when you've got Antonio Brown, it makes passing the ball a lot easier."

So the Ravens' game plan should change with undrafted rookie Josh Harris (9 carries, 16 yards), third-round pick Dri Archer (10-40) or just-signed-off-the-street Ben Tate (3.1 ypc.) in the Steelers' backfield instead of an explosive running and receiving threat like Bell.

Won't it?

"You would think," said linebacker Jason Worilds. "But I don't think they know 40 yet."

Wearing uniform number 40 for the Steelers will be Harris, the expected starter.

"Surprise them with Josh Harris," said linebacker Sean Spence. "They haven't seen much of him. We get to see him every day. We know what he's capable of."

While Harris has only struggled for minimal yardage as he carried at the ends of games in near-absolute running situations, he did break off his first carry Sunday night for 59 yards. It was called back because of a holding penalty on Ramon Foster, who arguably kept the hole open.

"I don't think it was a hold. I saw it." Spence said. "I don't think it was a hold. I thought it could've went either way. But that just showed the fans what (Harris) can do and what he's capable of. It also showed the Ravens, though."

The Ravens have their own injury problems. In the secondary they've finally settled on Lardarius Webb and Rashaan Melvin, signed Nov. 8 off the Tampa Bay practice squad, as the starting cornerbacks. A previously porous unit, the Ravens secondary allowed only 692 passing yards in their last four games, albeit against two rookie QBs, a street free agent, and Ryan Tannehill.

The Ravens help their young corners with a ferocious pass rush led by Elvis Dumervil (17 sacks), Terrell Suggs (12) and Pernell McPhee (7.5). Might the Ravens utilize their strength better by attacking Roethlisberger and worrying about the run game on their way to the quarterback?

"No, because it wasn't just Le'Veon," said defensive end Cameron Heyward. "As much as Le'Veon's a big part of our run game, our offensive line does a great job. They finish blocks. If they just try to key on the pass, they're going to have another thing coming, because we're still going to try to establish the run. Any team would still try to establish the run because it balances you out."

The Ravens' injury problems could aid the Steelers' pass rush as well. Ravens right tackle, Ricky Wagner was put on IR and left tackle Eugene Monroe has been ruled out after both were injured two games ago.

Monroe will again be replaced by undrafted rookie James Hurst. Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda volunteered to replace Wagner at right tackle last week, and will likely remain there with reserve John Urschel playing right guard.

"They're trying to get a lot of continuity really fast," Heyward said. "I know Yanda hasn't played there before but it's about meshing well. They've at least tried to get better at it and supplement it with some quick passes and get some good runs out of it, but that's one thing we've got to try to take advantage of."

The Steelers have played better defense of late thanks to the play of a trio of cornerbacks who had all been released by their previous teams: William Gay, Brice McCain and Antwon Blake. Free safety Mike Mitchell is also becoming acclimated to his role and team. They'll be joined back there by Troy Polamalu, who's expected to return after a two-game absence.

Polamalu hasn't announced his intentions, and he still has a year left on his contract, but there's speculation that the 33-year-old could be playing his final game at Heinz Field.

"I wouldn’t even want to speculate on that," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "Just go one game at a time. One thing is for sure in every roster in the NFL every year that you go out there, the last game is going to be the last game that that group of men is together, because there are going to be changes."

Heavy rain is being forecasted for the entire game. That could give the edge to Roethlisberger, who excelled in some horrible weather in college, and also started his first pro game in the remnants of a hurricane in Miami.

"We have a quarterback that is a mudder, so to speak, that can play in all conditions," said Haley. "He has proven that over time. It’s just a matter of coaching the guys and making sure everybody understands the focus that is required, whether you are running the ball, throwing the ball or catching the ball."

It's yet another chapter in what will be remembered as one of the great rivalry periods in NFL history. The Steelers have won all three playoff meetings, but the two teams are 13-13 overall since 2002.

What does Roethlisberger remember about previous Ravens-Steelers playoff games?

"The game that A.B. (Antonio Brown) caught the one on his helmet?" Roethlisberger asked. "I remember it just as a play that a young guy that no one really knew of yet that much. We put him in."

Like Josh Harris?

And Ravens QB Joe Flacco, what does he remember about this playoff series?

"Not winning," he said. "The biggest thing is just being up in Pittsburgh every time and not playing as well as we would have liked."

The Steelers, of course, are rooting for that trend. And then they can start a-ravin'.


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