Michael Oher has tangled with underrated pass rushers like the Indianapolis Colts' Robert Mathis and Pro Bowl players like the Minnesota Vikings' Jared Allen.

This Sunday, the rookie, who might line up at left offensive tackle for the third consecutive game, could meet the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison.

But if Oher is anxious about the potential matchup, he isn't letting those nerves show.

"I have to do all of my techniques right, work hard and know him inside and out," said Oher, the 23rd overall pick in this year's draft. "It's a challenge and the stuff I look forward to."

Whether Oher gets a shot at Harrison will depend largely on the status of left tackle Jared Gaither. Gaither has missed the past two games with lower-back stiffness and an injured foot, and did not practice for the second consecutive day.

Gaither, however, proclaimed himself ready to return. "It's been two weeks, and my foot and my toe are feeling good," he said. "I would say my anticipation is to play. That's what I'm looking forward to, getting back on the field."

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was less definitive, saying: "Gaither's getting some good work in this week, and we're kind of letting things continue to play out. Michael, going back and forth, has done as fine a job as I've seen for a young guy, and I think regardless of who your tackles are, these guys - Harrison, [LaMarr] Woodley, their entire defensive unit - are going to create matchup challenges."

During Gaither's absence, Oher has shifted from his usual right tackle position to the left side and Oniel Cousins has filled in Oher's spot.

Protecting quarterback Joe Flacco from being harassed by the 6-foot, 242-pound Harrison will be key. A rare blend of power and speed, Harrison has 43 tackles, six sacks and four forced fumbles in the past six meetings with the Ravens. But he has not registered a sack or a forced fumble in the Steelers' past three games.

Still, Oher said he knows what's in store for him if he's the left tackle Sunday.

"He's the MVP of the league," Oher said. "Great player, tough, physical. It's going to be a battle."

Injury update

Free safety Ed Reed (strained hip/foot), linebacker Tavares Gooden (groin), long snapper Matt Katula (right wrist/forearm) and Gaither did not practice Thursday for the second consecutive day. In addition, outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (left shoulder/knee) missed practice after being limited Wednesday.

Wide receiver Mark Clayton (right hamstring), defensive tackle Kelly Talavou (knee) and rookie safety K.J. Gerard (thigh) were limited for the second straight day.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (sprained right ankle), center Matt Birk (neck), tight end Todd Heap (chest), and wide receiver Kelley Washington (ankle) were upgraded to full participation after being limited Wednesday.

Tight end L.J. Smith (ankle) and wide receiver Justin Harper (foot) fully practiced.

Katula, who is dealing with tendinitis and had his right wrist and forearm wrapped, vowed to play. "I'll be able to play this Sunday," he said. "It's the Steelers."

Noting the addition of rookie long snapper Nick Sundberg to the practice squad, special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Jerry Rosburg was noncommittal, saying: "We'll just have to wait and see what happens until the weekend. We have a guy that can practice and has been out at practice for a couple days and has helped us during practice. If it does become a situation where Matt can't play, we've got one close at hand."

Rosburg was similarly tight-lipped about whether Chris Carr would return kicks and punts in addition to his starting cornerback duties against the Steelers, who rank last in the NFL in kickoff coverage.

"When we get to the game on Sunday, we'll have a guy out there catching the ball in each phase," Rosburg said. "Chris is in that mix, and we have other guys in that mix as well."

Carr, who fielded punts with the first return unit Thursday, said he welcomes the opportunity to do all three.

"I want to be out there doing everything," said Carr, who - besides the injured Lardarius Webb - is the only player listed on the team's depth chart under kick and punt returns. "So, of course, I want to do kickoff returns as well as punt returns. But if they don't have me doing that, then that's fine. I'm just going to concentrate on what they want me to do."

End zone

For the Steelers, a pair of starters, strong safety Troy Polamalu (strained posterior cruciate ligament in left knee) and left guard Chris Kemoeatu (sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee/wrist), did not practice. Three starters, wide receiver Hines Ward (strained hamstring), defensive end Brett Keisel (neck) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (hip), were upgraded to full practice after being limited Wednesday. ... Cornerback Domonique Foxworth was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week for his two-interception performance in Sunday's 31-7 defeat of the Chicago Bears. ... The Ravens elected strong safety Dawan Landry as the winner of the annual Ed Block Courage Award. Landry has started every game this season after suffering a spinal cord concussion last year and undergoing neck surgery.

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