Red-hot Heap could play a major factor vs. Steelers

The last time the Ravens met the Steelers, Todd Heap was on the field for just one play.

Heap pulled a hamstring on the first play from scrimmage in the Week 13 matchup, and the two-time Pro Bowler had to miss the rest of the game as well as the Ravens' subsequent three contests because of the injury.

Saturday, Heap will not only be back in action, but he'll be coming off a franchise playoff record 10-catch, 108-yard performance against the Chiefs last weekend.

As you could expect, the Ravens are looking forward to having Heap against the Steelers this time, and hope he'll be around for more than just one play.

"Todd's one of the best players in the National Football League," head coach John Harbaugh said. "We lost him on the first play, and that was a big deal. We've been in this game where we haven't had a lot of our guys. I hear a lot of talk about how (the Steelers) don't have some of their guys in different games, but that's just part of football.

"You don't apologize for who you have or who you don't have. You go play the game with what you've got, and that's how it goes."

Heap's developed a nice chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco over the last three years, and when Flacco gets into a tough spot, he often looks for his big 6-foot-5 tight end.

While he complimented rookies Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta for stepping in and playing well while Heap was out with the hamstring injury, Flacco acknowledged that it'll be big to have Heap back this weekend.

"Anytime you lose out on a guy of Todd Heap's caliber - especially when he is playing the way he has this year - yeah, that can definitely hurt you as an offense," Flacco said.

You can bet that the Steelers won't let Heap run around basically uncovered like the Chiefs did last weekend. But the way Heap has been playing lately, he could play a big factor on Saturday.

Heap has averaged 62 yards and has posted five touchdowns in his last eight games (not counting the one-play performance against the Steelers), and is looking forward to getting back out there against Pittsburgh after being left to wonder whether he could have been a factor that flipped the Week 13 decision in the Ravens' favor.

"I thought about it at the time," Heap said. "Obviously, in my mind, I felt like I could've made a difference in that game. I was very frustrated sitting back and watching the game on the TV in the locker room. I'm just excited that I'll be out there and be a part of this one, let alone with so much on the line."

Hopefully he'll just stretch out his hamstrings a little more carefully this time.

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