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01-10-2011, 06:05 AM
Playoffs latest showcase for Ravens-Steelers
By Scott Brown
Monday, January 10, 2011

Ravens-Steelers, Round 3.

Two of the AFC's heavyweights will slug it out Saturday in a divisional playoff game at Heinz Field.

The Ravens advanced past the wild-card round of the playoffs Sunday after scoring 27 unanswered points to overwhelm the Kansas City Chiefs, 30-7, and set up perhaps the most intriguing game of next weekend.

Both Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh have said that Steelers versus Ravens is the best rivalry in the NFL, and for good reason.

Their games are always hard-hitting, usually close and often with more than just bragging rights at stake.

Late-season victories in Baltimore propelled the Steelers to AFC North titles in 2008 and this season. The Steelers beat the Ravens, 23-14, in the 2008 AFC title game.

The four games the teams have played since then have been decided by a total of 12 points.

One potential drawback for the winner of Saturday's 4:30 p.m. game: the physical toll the contest takes. A trip to New England, barring an upset, looms the following weekend.

"If we do beat each other up, guess what? We've got one game to go to the Super Bowl," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said. "And for a lot of guys (when) you have one game to go to the Super Bowl, you would play with one leg."

The Steelers should be better rested than the Ravens, whom they split with during the regular season.

The Steelers didn't play last weekend, a reward for earning the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Among the players that benefited from the time off was strong safety Troy Polamalu.

The six-time Pro Bowler has been nursing an Achilles injury, which caused him to miss two of the Steelers' final three regular-season games.

The Steelers have been cautious with Polamalu, who didn't practice yesterday and may not practice until Thursday.

"I don't enjoy watching, but I'll do whatever the coaches want me to do," Polamalu said. "Actually, I enjoy practicing. I think it would be more beneficial for me to practice."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-543