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Steelers Pregame Focus: Troy Polamalu and Antonio Brown are the difference-makers Pittsburgh needs in Week 13

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The good news this week for Pittsburgh is the return of Troy Polamalu and Antonio Brown. How effective will both of them be, coming off leg injuries that have kept both of them out several games?

Andy Lyons

Two legends in the Steelers/Ravens rivalry return to the field looking to even the season series against Baltimore.

The timing suggests riding white horses, saving the damsel in distress and winning over the day.

The question isn't whether Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Antonio Brown will play Sunday when the Steelers take on the Ravens in Baltimore, it's how effective the 2010 Pro Bowl players will be.

Polamalu has played approximately five quarters this season - Week 1 against Denver and part of the first quarter against Philadelphia in Week 5. Outside of that, he's been sidelined with a calf injury. He returns to a Steelers defense that's gotten along quite well without him in there.

Expect Baltimore to test him early in this game, particularly with tight end Dennis Pitta, down the seam in deep coverage. It won't take more than the first series to see how much Polamalu has healed.

Brown suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Steelers' 24-20 win over the Giants in Week 9. He hasn't played since, and the Steelers offense has fallen through the floor - quarterback Ben Roethlisberger only played five more quarters until he was hurt in the second half of the Steelers' Week 10 game against Kansas City.

While Brown always has big play potential, especially after the catch, his presence brings the Steelers a reliable target in short yardage, and, depending on the health of his ankle, a dangerous presence in the short-passing (unorthodox running) game. The bubble screen has been a very effective weapon for the Steelers all season, and they'll likely use it a few times in this game.

Despite being without Roethlisberger, the Steelers offense improves with Brown on the field, but their special teams could be even better if he's asked to return punts. The Steelers are outmatched in the return game, even with Brown, but field position will be critical considering Roethlisberger isn't playing and the Ravens score in droves at home.

It remains to be seen how the Steelers' game plan will be designed considering they'll have both players back, but it could potentially give the Steelers the kinds of splash plays they absolutely have to have if they are to upset the Ravens in Baltimore.