James Harrison expected to play vs. Patriots; Ladarius Green's status up in air

When the Steelers faced the Patriots in the regular season, they did so without franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. On Sunday, when the two teams meet in the AFC Championship Game, Big Ben will be under center, but some of his teammates will be less than 100 percent.

That's due to a combination of injuries and the flu bug, which made its way through the Steelers locker room last week. Wide receiver Cobi Hamilton said up to 15 people at the team's facility were affected, though the four players to miss Wednesday's practice -- wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey, kicker Chris Boswell, backup center B.J. Finney and third-string quarterback Zach Mettenberger -- practiced Thursday.

"I'm just thankful that I've stayed out of the line of fire," coach Mike Tomlin said Thursday, via ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler. "We're not making excuses. There won't be. We'll be there, we'll be ready to play, this is just part of normal things that happen over the course of a season."

That's the good news. The bad news is that one of the Steelers' best defensive players, 38-year-old James Harrison, was listed as questionable on the final injury report because of shoulder/triceps injury he suffered against the Chiefs last week. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora says the Steelers expect Harrison to play but he might not be fully healthy.

Meanwhile, the Steelers' big offseason signing, tight end Ladarius Green, hasn't played since Dec. 18, when he suffered a concussion against the Bengals. He practiced last week, and he wants to suit up against the Patriots but he's still in the concussion protocol. La Canfora reports that the Steelers aren't optimistic that Green will be cleared in time for the kickoff.

That means Pittsburgh will continue to lean on second-year tight end Jesse James, who had five catches for a career-high 83 yards in the win over the Chiefs.

"I'm just playing better overall," James told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last week. "Blocking better. Finishing plays. Being able to make some plays in the run and the pass. I improve every week. I'm still a young tight end, so I have a lot of room to grow."

The Steelers-Patriots game kicks off at 6:40 p.m. ET -- on CBS and CBSSports.com -- and the winner will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The Patriots are six-point favorites, and five of eight CBSSports.com experts are picking them to win.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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