Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2) at New York Jets (1-8)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
SERIES: 19th meeting. Steelers lead the series, 16-2, including one playoff victory in 2004 in overtime. The Steelers have dominated this series from its start in 1970 by winning the first nine games between them. However, on their last game on the road against the Jets, the Steelers lost 6-0 in 2003.
PREDICTION: Steelers 31-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Steelers will look to dominate time of possession against the Jets' league-worst run defense allowing 152.2 yards per game. Roethlisberger is doing an excellent job of avoiding pressure and creating big gains on busted plays, so the Jets' secondary has to be careful not to let up in coverage before the whistle. FS Abram Elam won the starting job over Erik Coleman, and must be disciplined and not always go for the kill shot. ... The Steelers defense leads the NFL across the board -- total defense, rushing defense and passing defense. Jets RB Thomas Jones is averaging 4.4 yards per carry at home, but the Steelers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 34 games. If Pittsburgh is going to be vulnerable it's going to be with Clemens using his strong arm to attack downfield.
KEY INJURIES: Steelers: FS Ryan Clark (spleen) and TE Jerame Tuman (back) were placed on Injured Reserve this week. Jets: None.
FAST FACTS: Roethlisberger's 22 touchdown passes is already a career high, and six short of Terry Bradshaw's franchise record set in 1978. ... Jets rookie CB Darrelle Revis is tied for the team lead with 58 tackles.
-- RB Willie Parker returned to practice Thursday after holding out on Monday with a slight hip problem. The AFC's leading rusher will be ready to play against the Jets, ranked last in the league against the run.
-- LB Lawrence Timmons, the Steelers' first round draft choice, has been practicing primarily at inside linebacker this season. Originally, he was drafted to play on the outside.
-- LB James Farrior's five sacks are one more than his career high for a full season and second on the team. Farrior, 32, continues to lead the Steelers in tackles.
-- SS Troy Polamalu, who had problems with rib cartilage earlier in the season, leads the team with 10 passes defensed and has stepped up his play the past three games.
-- QB Ben Roethlisberger is the Steelers' third-leading rushers with 135 yards on 18 carries and has one touchdown, one fewer than Willie Parker.
--WR Laveranues Coles practiced fully on Thursday and is not on the injury report after missing the Washington game with a concussion. He will start Sunday against Pittsburgh.
--WR Chris Davis (shoulder) practiced Thursday on a limited basis.
--FB Stacy Tutt (knee) practiced on a limited basis Thursday. His status for Sunday's game is uncertain.
--TE Chris Baker (back) practiced full Thursday. He is expected to play.
--WR Brad Smith (back) practiced full Thursday. He is expected to play.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Safety Ryan Clark had his spleen removed this week but should return to play for Pittsburgh next season.
Clark, the Steelers' starting free safety since he arrived as an unrestricted free agent in 2006, has not played since Oct. 21. After that game in Denver, doctors discovered he had an inflamed spleen and said it was brought on by exertion in high altitude combined with Clark having the sickle cell trait.
Initially, Clark and the Steelers thought he might miss only a game or two, but the condition did not improve and this week coach Mike Tomlin placed him on injured reserve.
"When I was with the Redskins, I had the same type of thing happen" in Denver, Clark said. "They diagnosed it a little differently. They thought it was a little contusion. We're learning more about it now."
While Clark should recover to play next season, it's not likely he'll ever play in Denver again.
Anthony Smith, who started the past three games at free safety, will continue to start in Clark's spot. Smith had alternated with Clark much of the year anyway, playing every third series at free safety.
Despite the Jets' worst start since 1996, and the fact that they're about to play two teams with a total of 15 wins in a five-day span next week, Laveranues Coles is trying to remain upbeat.
"The main thing," Coles said, "is to go out and have fun."
As a commodity, fun has certainly been in short supply on the Jets' sidelines on gamedays for most of the season. But for Coles, sitting out the Jets' 23-20 overtime loss to Washington on Nov. 4 because of a concussion was even less fun, and his return has him feeling somewhat rejuvenated.
"You never know how important something is until you face certain situations in your life," Coles said. "I realized how much I love the game of football and I'm ready to get back out there and start playing."
Coles, who practiced with a red no-contact jersey last week, didn't have any restrictions in practice Wednesday. In fact, he wasn't even on the Jets' injury report. Coles, who had started 102 consecutive regular-season games before missing the Washington contest, is second on the Jets with 42 receptions for 473 yards. Coles is still tied for seventh in the NFL in touchdown catches with six.
Pittsburgh (7-2) has won three straight games and its defense is ranked atop the NFL in total yardage and against the run and pass as well. The Steelers are allowing 14.0 points per game, the lowest yield in the league.
The Steelers have 25 sacks and like to blitz. When Coles was asked how to attack an attacking defense such as that, he answered, "That's the (offensive) coordinator's job. You have to let him tell you that.
"When you approach a game like this," Coles added, "you kind of sit back, scratch your head and tell your coordinator good luck. He (Brian Schottenheimer) knows that he has a game ahead of him because this is one of the top defenses in the league, if not the best defense in the league."
But, Coles added, "You get an opportunity to go out when a lot of people really don't give you a chance. You just play and have fun. I know for me personally, I want to get back out there and start having fun."
As for the rest of the season, Coles takes being one of the team's captains seriously.
"You can go out and lead by example," he said, "and show it's still a game and it's still fun.
"We're in a performance business," he added, "and the main thing is for guys to continue to perform. The only thing you can do as an individual is try to continue to prepare and approach things the same way, so you don't show up on film looking bad. You can't get yourself caught up in a funk when you're kind of behind the eight-ball and start thinking that it doesn't matter when in all actuality it does matter because this is your job and this is what you do."