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lamberts-lost-tooth
10-07-2006, 04:11 AM
Saturday, October 07, 2006

By Gerry Dulac
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


On most occasions, Joey Porter doesn't need much incentive to get ready for a game. Of course, it never hurts when the game in which he is playing is in the national spotlight. Or when the other team has a big-play linebacker who is sometimes mentioned as a candidate for defensive player of the year.

When the Steelers opened their season against the Miami Dolphins, a prime-time spectacle that officially kicked off the 2006 NFL season, Porter was at his Pro Bowl best. He had two sacks and a 42-yard interception return for touchdown that highlighted a 28-17 victory.

Tomorrow, in another prime-time game in San Diego, Porter won't be the only Pro Bowl outside linebacker on the field. Shawne Merriman, the NFL's defensive rookie of the year in 2005, plays the same position as Porter in the Chargers' 3-4 defense and has registered 13 sacks in 13 starts.

That should be enough to amp Porter even more, if such a thing is possible, for the 8:15 p.m. game at Qualcomm Stadium.

"It's just like when I play against Baltimore, when you watch Ray [Lewis] go out there and make plays," Porter said. "You can't have a silent game. You want to make some noise, too. I feed off that."

The Steelers (1-2) are hoping Porter, a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker, is hungry. He has been noticeably quiet in the past two games -- losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals -- and the Steelers want to be able to pressure quarterback Philip Rivers, a first-year starter who has never had to decipher Dick LeBeau's complex defense.

But if ending a modest two-game losing streak isn't enough incentive, the prospect of being featured in a game against Merriman should be enough to whip Porter into a frenzy that goes beyond his normal animated persona.

"If I'm watching another guy go crazy out there on defense, I feel like why can't we do same thing," Porter said. "It raises your play. It raises the elevation of your game because you're not going to sit back and watch another guy go crazy and you have the opportunity to go out there and make plays.

"You want to go out there and have a good game, especially if he has a good game. It makes you want to raise your level, make as many plays as he does, or more, if you can."

Make no mistake, Merriman makes many dominating plays for the Chargers (2-1).

He already has four sacks in the first three games after registering 10 last season as a rookie. Even though he had a 10-day training-camp holdout and didn't become a starter until Week 7 -- he was a backup when the Steelers beat the Chargers on Oct. 10 -- Merriman was second to Porter (10.5) in sacks among NFL linebackers.

But, unlike Porter, the Chargers will flip-flop Merriman and sometimes line him on the left side of their defense, depending on the situation. At 6 feet 4, 272 pounds, he is built more like a defensive end -- the position he played at the University of Maryland.

Merriman, though, might not be 100 percent against the Steelers. He left practice earlier this week with a flare-up of Achilles tendinitis, an injury he has experienced before, and is listed as questionable on the team's official injury report.

"He's got the full package in what you want in an outside linebacker in the 3-4," said left tackle Marvel Smith, who will line across from Merriman. "He's big, strong, fast, and the biggest thing to me is he's relentless. He never gives up on a play. He's never tired in the fourth quarter. He's still coming as hard as ever."

"I think their whole defense, they're real aggressive, they're high-energy, high-motor. ... They play the same way we do," said outside linebacker Clark Haggans. "Our defense is very athletic and there are interchangeable assignments we can do on the field. I think it's basically the ability the players have in general and the scheme of the things they do."

Do not forget Haggans.

Behind Porter and Merriman, Haggans finished tied with Baltimore's Adelius Thomas as the third-leading sacker (9) among NFL linebackers in 2005. Porter and Haggans led all NFL linebacker duos in total sacks (19.5).

But, against the Chargers, the spotlight will be on Porter and Merriman, two outside linebacker known for their tenacity and dominance.

"It's just a natural competition -- you want to show you're the best one on the field," Porter said. "My biggest goal is to go out there and win the game. At the same time, you hear how much they feel about this guy, they're already picking him to be the defensive player of the year, you want to let him know, hey, I'm over here, too."

19ward86
10-07-2006, 08:42 AM
merriman is a great LB but he is also questionable for sunday which means instead of playing like a probowler he might play like a 3rd string bencher.

Atlanta Dan
10-07-2006, 09:22 AM
merriman is a great LB but he is also questionable for sunday which means instead of playing like a probowler he might play like a 3rd string bencher.

Never underestimate the power of modern medicine

wadester47
10-07-2006, 06:56 PM
never underestimate, THE BIG NASTY D come sunday when the smoke clears I gaurentee JOEY has a game!!!

BoltPride
10-08-2006, 01:37 AM
I don't think Achilles tendinitis will stop Merriman from putting Big Bens lights out, but we will see tomorrow night:yep:

24seven
10-08-2006, 04:18 AM
Well.. I personally think Big Bens lights have been out since the season started so don't think your teams startin this trend there boltpride.. I'm hopin he turns his lights on for a change and shoots a bolt of lightnin up your little charger ars.. but that's just my dream ok.. :P

stillers4me
10-08-2006, 07:12 AM
Maybe the real reason Cowher wanted Ben to eat "snacks" was to clear him of all the brain farts.

Here we go, Steelers!

HometownGal
10-08-2006, 07:33 AM
I don't think Achilles tendinitis will stop Merriman from putting Big Bens lights out, but we will see tomorrow night:yep:

He may play through his injury, but he has a big, strong black and gold wall to get through before getting to Ben. If I were you, I would worry more about Rivers making it through the first half with his head still attached to his shoulders - our D is definitely going to bring it. :tt02:

Elvis
10-08-2006, 09:43 AM
Good luck Boltpride... you gonna need it..
I love Merriman.. he is an awesome athlete and I respect his play... he is a demon but our O line see's those blitzes every day in practice... so, good luck

Stlrs4Life
10-08-2006, 10:23 PM
Charged up for what?

BigJen
10-08-2006, 10:49 PM
He may play through his injury, but he has a big, strong black and gold wall to get through before getting to Ben. If I were you, I would worry more about Rivers making it through the first half with his head still attached to his shoulders - our D is definitely going to bring it. :tt02:

Looks like Rivers did ok:flap: