It was a bold day for offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, and it had nothing to do with his play-calling or his game plan for the Baltimore Ravens.
First, he said Ravens safety Ed Reed is better than Troy Polamalu, a comment that might be considered sacrilegious in this town.
Then he guaranteed the Steelers will be able to run the ball against the Ravens when the teams meet Monday night in Heinz Field.
Willie Parker, who leads all National Football League running backs with five 100-yard games, was held to 50 yards on 23 carries in two games against the Ravens last season. Arians said that won't happen again, even though the Ravens have the league's No. 2 rush defense.
"Partly, it was us; we took a pass-first mentality to Baltimore and it backfired," Arians said yesterday after practice. "Last year was last year. All I'm worried about is this year. We're going to run the football, make no bones about it."
Asked if that meant attempt to run the football, Arians said, "No, we're going to run the football."
But his comment about Polamalu, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and the youngest member of the Steelers' 75th anniversary team, might be even more shocking.
"Ed's a great player," Arians said of Reed, a thee-time Pro Bowl selection and the NFL's defensive player of the year in 2004. "I personally think he's the best. I love Troy and I think he's good, but Ed is really good."
Receivers Hines Ward (knee) and Santonio Holmes (quad contusion), fullback Dan Kreider (ankle) and tackle Marvel Smith returned to practice. Defensive end Aaron Smith (knee), free safety Ryan Clark (spleen) and tight end Jerame Tuman did not practice.
Ravens Coach Brian Billick said he wasn't bothered by comments made last week by linebacker Ray Lewis on his weekly radio show, criticizing Billick's play-calling in a loss to Buffalo.
Lewis was upset the Ravens tried to throw the ball on a fourth-and-1 play that failed instead of using running back Willis McGahee.
"You can't make oranges be peaches," Lewis said on his two-hour radio show. "It doesn't change. It will never change. That's what Billick has to ask himself, why we keep putting ourselves in those situations. In the Cincinnati game, that cost us with those same decisions."
"As a coach, you don't like to hear those things," Billick said yesterday during a conference call. "You would like for it not to be outside of the family, outside of the structure. You certainly understand when it happens and the last thing you are going to do is respond to it as a coach because that just exacerbates the situation.
"Ray and I have no problem. We have been down this road before. I certainly understand the frustration, I am frustrated. I am a little [upset] at the offensive coordinator, too, because he probably should have run the ball on fourth-and-1."
After a pause, he added, "I am the offensive coordinator, by the way."
McNair, others, back in lineup
Quarterback Steve McNair, tackle Jonathan Ogden, tight end Todd Heap, tackle Adam Terry, defensive end Trevor Pryce, cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister and center Mike Flynn have been out with injuries. Billick said he expects all those players to play against the Steelers, with the exception of Heap and McAlister. He said their availability is questionable.