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09-24-2006, 12:03 AM
Key matchup: Steelers' passing game vs. Kaesviharn

By The Tribune-Review
Sunday, September 24, 2006


STEELERS' PASSING OFFENSE vs. BENGALS SS KEVIN KAESVIHARN


Kevin Kaesviharn: A sixth-year pro and a former rookie-free agent from Augustana (S.D.) in 2001, Kaesviharn gets the start at strong safety today in place of Dexter Jackson (ankle). Kaesviharn, 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, has started 38 of 75 career NFL games at cornerback or safety since joining the Bengals, but he also has the XFL (San Francisco Demons) and the AFL (Iowa Barnstormers) on his resume. He's versatile and experienced in an extra-defensive back's role, but the Bengals would prefer he didn't start. That's one of the reasons they signed Jackson, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVII, as an unrestricted free agent.

Steelers' passing game: With Ben Roethlisberger making his 2006 debut, the passing offense went nowhere Monday night in Jacksonville. After a hot start, Roethlisberger was uncharacteristically off target, and was pressured heavily by a Jaguars' defense that totally took the running game (14 carries, 26 yards) out of the Steelers' offensive equation. Roethlisberger completed 17 of 32 throws, but none went for longer than 18 yards, a stark contrast to the big-play spark the passing game provided in the Steelers' come-from-behind victory over Miami in the regular-season opener Sept. 7.

The matchup: The Bengals had intended to go with Kim Herring and Madieu Williams at safety last season, but injuries forced them to play Kaesviharn (free safety) and Ifeanyi Ohalete (strong safety). It was a disaster. The Steelers exploited the combination repeatedly in their playoff win in Cincinnati, accounting for 208 passing yards on just 14 completions and running for 144 yards. The Bengals consider their safeties interchangeable in their scheme, but Kaesviharn isn't nearly as good a tackler as Jackson or Williams (the current free safety). Kaesviharn was also flagged for a 40-yard pass-interference penalty that set up the third-quarter touchdown that put the Steelers ahead to stay last January. Kaesviharn once intercepted two passes against the Steelers in 2001, but he's still the weak link in a secondary that includes ball-hawking cornerbacks Deltha O'Neal and Tory James, and Williams, an athletic, physical, former second-round pick (2004). The Steelers need to figure out if Kaesviharn is supporting run or pass and respond accordingly.

Last week: The Jaguars took advantage of their size at wide receiver and Byron Leftwich's ability to deliver the ball in a hurry to a spot where only his big receivers could go up and get it just often enough to cobble together a couple of field-goal drives in a 9-0 victory. Shoddy tackling by Steelers defensive backs on flanker screens that should have gone for minimal yardage but turned into significant gains also helped turn the tide. Edge: Jaguars

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