Shove fails to move Heap

But Ravens expect him to be `pumped' for game

Porter can't understand buzz

Steeler remains focus of cheap-shot charges

December 24, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Of all the players who might have been drawn into the verbal battles between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Ravens over the years, Todd Heap would be near the bottom of the list.

Heap, who in his four seasons as the Ravens' tight end has yet to make a disparaging remark about the Steelers or any other players, kept his streak alive this week, though he has ample reason to speak out.

The last time the teams played, Heap was on the receiving end of what has universally been described as a cheap shot as he lined up for an obvious spike attempt late in the first half.

Steelers linebacker Joey Porter shoved Heap to the ground while Kyle Boller was spiking the ball, an action made worse because Heap had just limped to the line of scrimmage after spraining his ankle.

Porter was booed, Ravens coaches were infuriated and Heap went on to miss the next nine games. Is Sunday's game in Pittsburgh a good time for retaliation? Apparently not for Heap, who said the shove did not make the injury any worse.

"We won the game and that was our goal going into it," Heap said. "I don't worry about anything else that happened.

"I think it was a cheap shot. It wasn't necessary. But it's not like I'm going in with a grudge or anything. I'm just going in to play football and see what happens."

Heap's public stance is one thing, but privately, teammates say Heap will go into this game with a little something extra, even if it is not directed solely at Porter.

"I think Heap will be the most pumped up for this one," Boller said.

"It's the past and you don't want to harp on it too much, and you obviously don't want to get a penalty for doing something stupid coming back at him. I wouldn't give [Porter] the time of day. It's beyond us. It happened, and Todd is healthy now. I think the way we can solve everything is to go out and play a great game."

Heap appears ready to do so. He has three touchdowns in the past two games and recorded a team-high 58 receiving yards against the Indianapolis Colts last week.

The ankle is relatively healthy and Heap's incorporation back into an offense that has received production from Terry Jones, Darnell Dinkins and Daniel Wilcox in his absence has been smooth.

The last two times the Ravens have been inside an opponent's 20-yard line, Boller has thrown to Heap four times, including for a 13-yard touchdown.

"He's been around long enough," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Heap. "It's just a matter of a physical issue as to how far back he would be. But once we could see and get him into a normal rhythm and enough plays, you knew that that ability would come back out, and the relationship he and Kyle had. It's just about rhythm."

Porter and the other members of the Steelers' defense thrive on keeping players out of rhythm, be it physically or mentally.

Expect Porter to have something to say to Heap and everybody else on the Ravens' offense.

"That's just his game. He talks a lot and is real emotional," Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown said. "I'm not going to get caught up in that because I always have those referees watching me. But that's in my head. And that's in every other player's head. I think he knows that we'll be looking for him."

Porter did not understand what the big deal was back then, and he reiterated that this week. He felt the Ravens carried on about nothing.

"That was the whole thing for them getting on me because they said he was hurt before I did it," Porter said. "So how can you blame me if he was already hurt? It doesn't really make sense."

Neither did the extracurricular shove, other than the fact that Porter, who wanted to fight Ray Lewis after a game last year near the Ravens' team bus, just seems to have it in for his team's biggest division rival.

Asked what he expects from Porter this time around, Heap said: "You guys know what to expect. You guys can report on that."

NOTES: Lewis (wrist) and nickel back Deion Sanders (foot) did not practice. Both are expected to play. Running back Jamal Lewis (ankle) and Heap (calf) were limited in practice but should be fine for Sunday's game. ... Although the Jacksonville Jaguars appear in the best position to get the final wild-card berth if they keep winning, the chances of the team clinching the spot this week with a victory and Ravens, Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills losses are still minuscule. The Jaguars would also need to clinch the strength-of-victory tiebreaker, and that involves a host of other games involving teams Jacksonville and the other wild-card contenders have played.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: Ravens (8-6) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-1)

Site: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Steelers by 5 1/2

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