-- Todd Heap slowly made his way through the Baltimore Ravens' locker room on Monday afternoon, his right ankle immobilized in an air cast and his movements aided by crutches.
Watching their hobbled Pro Bowl tight end certainly wasn't the best way to start the week for the Ravens. Heap has a sprained ankle and will be out for two to four weeks, according to Coach Brian Billick.
"It's huge," Billick said during his weekly news conference. "It's your number one target, your number one receiver."
Heap was injured shortly before halftime in the Ravens' 30-13 win over the Steelers when Pittsburgh linebacker James Farrior rolled up Heap's right leg. The injury looked as if it were more severe on television replays, but X-rays taken Sunday didn't show anything worse.
Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf said that Heap's ankle is swollen and tender, and he classified Heap as "extremely doubtful" for Baltimore's game Sunday in Cincinnati.
"It scared me at the time; I was definitely worried about [the] ankle, knee, everything at that point," said Heap, who hasn't missed a game since his rookie season (2001), when he was sidelined for four games with a high ankle sprain. "It was a scary way to go down, but it was definitely a relief to find out it was an ankle sprain and just a little bit of ligament damage."
The injury to Heap (team-high 12 catches for 113 yards) is the second blow to Baltimore's passing game -- which ranks 30th in the league -- in as many weeks. Wide receiver Travis Taylor re-injured his groin in the season opener and is expected to be sidelined for at least another three games.
But the Ravens only have to look around the rest of the deadlocked AFC North (all four teams are 1-1) to see that things could be much worse.
Cleveland lost rookie tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. for two months with a broken right leg, and defensive end Courtney Brown -- a former overall No. 1 draft pick -- will undergo surgery for a foot injury Tuesday and will likely need six months to recover. Pittsburgh quarterback Tommy Maddox is out for six weeks with an injured right elbow.
"They're all around the league, and when I talk about our injuries, I hope no one misconstrues that as 'Jeez, poor us,' " Billick said. "If we can find a way to the bye [Oct. 17] with some success, notwithstanding whatever else might happen, we feel like we can come out of it with increased depth, with increased productivity, and that can be a real positive for us. So we've got to take these recent challenges as a positive to develop some of the young talent that we have."
The Ravens can be optimistic because, so far, their young players have filled in admirably for injured veterans. Center Casey Rabach, a fourth-year player who has stepped in for seven-year veteran Mike Flynn (broken collarbone), has been "playing very well at center for us, with the calls, orchestrating, keeping it together," Billick said. Third-year nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu, who took the place of three-year starter Kelly Gregg (knee) on Sunday, played so well against the Steelers that he was awarded the defensive game ball.
With Heap out, the Ravens will turn to Terry Jones, who started 13 games last year, and Dan Wilcox, a journeyman who was signed in late June. Jones is known more as a blocker than a receiver; he has 33 catches for 292 yards and four touchdowns in his three-year career. Wilcox was one of the biggest surprises in training camp and has three catches for 22 yards this year.
"Fortunately it's a position where we have some depth," Billick said. "Dan Wilcox can do some of the things Todd Heap does, so we won't get forced out of too many things, but you're talking about a good, young, promising tight end versus a two-time Pro Bowler. And of course, Terry Jones has been very solid for us. We'll clearly have to adapt a little bit in terms of the way we're going to try to get the ball down the field throwing it."
Heap was injured shortly before halftime as the Ravens were driving deep into Steelers territory. He didn't leave the field immediately; he said that all he was thinking about was getting back to the line of scrimmage so that quarterback Kyle Boller could spike the ball and stop the clock. But as Boller spiked the ball, Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter shoved Heap to the ground.
"It was an incredible effort on his part to hobble himself back over to the line of scrimmage to help his team, so that someone could step across the line and smack him," Billick said.
After the game, several Ravens sharply criticized Porter for his actions. Billick said on Monday that though Porter's hit was not illegal, the league should look at it and perhaps "should legislate something in that situation to keep someone from getting injured."
Heap didn't want to comment on Porter when asked about him on Monday.
"I don't feel like I have to talk about Joey Porter or anything that happened about that," Heap said. "We'll save that for another time, another game."
Ravens Notes: Cornerback Deion Sanders missed the second half of the Steelers game with a hamstring injury, and his status will be evaluated as the week progresses. "I don't think he pulled a hamstring, but I think he felt some tightness," Billick said. . . . Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden, who missed the season opener with a sprained left knee, said that he didn't feel like he was "100 percent" against the Steelers and that he doesn't expect to reach that point for another couple of weeks.