Magic number now 1

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Larry Foote was awakened by a friend and was able to see the final play of the game. He yawned and went back to sleep.<br><br> Hines Ward received "a whole bunch of phone calls" near the end of the Miami Dolphins' upset win over the New England Patriots on Monday night, yet Ward didn't celebrate either.

Both players realize the Steelers - altogether now - haven't accomplished anything yet, as their coach, Bill Cowher, has taken to saying.

"I didn't jump out of bed and scream or nothing like that," said Ward. "Miami did a great job. There's no sorry team in the NFL. They believed in one another and luckily for us they beat the New England Patriots."

The upset dropped the Patriots a game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, a first-round bye and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Steelers need only beat Baltimore on Sunday or Buffalo the following week to clinch that top seed.

The Steelers, of course, hope to do so against the hated Ravens.

"What better way than having Baltimore coming in?" asked Ward. "They're still fighting for a playoff berth and we could clinch what we wanted to."

The Steelers can kill two birds with one win, and one of those birds would be the Ravens and their playoff chances. Such fun with so much at stake against a hated rival.

"No doubt about it," said Jerome Bettis. "But you know what? It's fun playing them when there's nothing at stake. We played them at the end of last year and it was fun. Regardless of when we play them, it's fun because they don't like us; we don't like them."

Last year, in the regular-season finale at Baltimore, the Ravens already knew when and where they were playing in the post-season the following week, yet used all of their available starters the entire game against the 6-9 Steelers. The Ravens needed overtime to win, 13-10, and then lost in the first round of the playoffs.

The Steelers would most likely reciprocate that intensity even if nothing were at stake this year. But the Steelers not only have the aforementioned goals to meet, they'd like to further their co-franchise-record 12-game winning streak and also gain revenge for their only loss of the season.

The Ravens beat the Steelers in the second week, 30-13. It was the game in which quarterback Tommy Maddox injured his elbow and gave way to rookie Ben Roethlisberger, who's held the job ever since. But at the time …

"We didn't know what Ben was going to do," said Ward.

And now?

"It's a total different makeup of this team," Ward said. "So we're looking forward to it. Is it going to be tough? Yes, it's going to be tough. But at the same time it's going to be tough for them too because ever since then we've become closer, a close-knitted team, and we're playing good football."

Ward is part of the reason. Last week he caught his 500th career pass with the Steelers to move within 37 of franchise leader John Stallworth. Ward also moved past Louis Lipps for second-place on the team's all-time receiving yardage list with 6,023. Ward has 75 receptions this year and needs only 28 more yards for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season.

"That's big," he said. "I mean, a thousand yards in this offense? I think we're like 28th in passing (actually 26th). That's a big accomplishment."

Ward isn't as excited at the prospect of being named to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl later this week.

"For us it's more about the Super Bowl and trying to clinch homefield and this bye more than the Pro Bowl," he said. "Coming into this year, I would've traded my Pro Bowl selections any time to get a chance to play in the Super Bowl. These are hard to come by. That's why you've got to take advantage. When you get the opportunity to put yourself in this position, you need to seize it.

"Who knows when you'll get another opportunity to have a team that's playing together, playing great team football? So for us, it's more about the Super Bowl than the Pro Bowl."

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