If anybody wondered why Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy would even consider sitting many of his key players during the team’s final two regular season games, a quick glance at what transpired in the opening minutes of Thursday night’s Pittsburgh Steelers-St. Louis Rams might present a pretty good clue.

Running back Willie Parker — the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,316 yards and a key cog in Pittsburgh’s offensive attack this year — was lost for the remainder of the season after breaking a bone in his lower right leg on his first carry of the game.

The Steelers came away with a 41-24 win, posting their 10th victory of the season in the process, but the loss of Parker could very seriously affect the team’s postseason aspirations.

When asked Friday if Parker’s injury might cause him to reevaluate his plans for Sunday’s game with the Houston Texans or next week’s regular-season finale with the Tennessee Titans, Dungy shook his head no.

“No, it really doesn’t. You feel bad for the Steelers in that situation, losing a good player. But it can happen. I think what you have to do is just to go out and play hard and not worry about the injuries too much,” he said.


n Injury list — The Colts aren’t expected to have several starters available for the Texans’ game, most notably wide receiver Marvin Harrison (knee), defensive end Robert Mathis (knees), defensive tackle Raheem Brock (rib), offensive tackle Ryan Diem (knee), and safety Antoine Bethea (knee).

Harrison, Brock, and Diem have already been listed as being out while Mathis, Bethea, rookie outside linebackers Ramon Guzman (foot) and Clint Session (ankle), and tight end Ben Utecht (shoulder) are questionable.

Session and Utecht both saw practice time this week, as did wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe (illness), safety Bob Sanders (team decision) and cornerback Tim Jennings (team decision). Thorpe, Sanders and Jennings are all expected to play while Guzman, Session and Utecht will most likely be game time decisions.

n Pass rush needed — With both starting defensive ends out (Dwight Freneey and Mathis), Indianapolis will need to do a better job rushing Houston quarterback Sage Rosenfels. Starter Matt Schaub is sidelined with a shoulder injury, but Rosenfels has done a good job of running the Texans’ offense in his absence.

A former backup with the Miami Dolphins, Rosenfels has completed 121-of-186 passes this year, hitting on 65 percent of his throws, for 1,323 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Texans’ single-season record for touchdown passes is 16, set by former Houston quarterback David Carr.

“Houston is moving the ball in the air much better than they probably ever have. They’re throwing the ball well. We were able to get a little rush at times down there [in a 30-24 Colts win on Sept. 23],” Dungy said. “We’ve got to take them out of their comfort zone, out of being able to run and get you in those second and shorts and third and shorts. But the pass rush will be important, I think.”

The Colts have registered 27 sacks so far this season, but did not have a sack in last week’s 21-14 win over Oakland.

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