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83-Steelers-43
12-02-2006, 06:03 AM
Steelers Notebook: Washington steps in for Ward
Saturday, December 02, 2006

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Even without Hines Ward, the Steelers' passing game could still flourish against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ward, the AFC's eighth-leading receiver with 57 catches, will miss only his second start in nine seasons tomorrow after having arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips in his left knee Monday.

That means Nate Washington, who has probably distinguished himself more for his drops than his catches this season, will make his first start against the Buccaneers.

"It's kind of hard to see your leader go down, but I'm definitely very excited," Washington said.

Ward, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, has missed only one other game since joining the Steelers in 1998 -- last year's overtime loss to Jacksonville that ended his consecutive games played streak at 116.

"The biggest thing we're going to miss is Hines blocking in the run game and trying to get the run established," said wide receiver Cedrick Wilson. "We just got to protect our quarterback and give him time to get the ball down the field."

Washington, an undrafted rookie in 2005, is fifth on the team with 27 catches, but he leads in yards per catch (16.1) and is tied for second behind Ward with three touchdowns.

But Washington could be tied with Ward with six touchdown catches if he didn't drop passes in the end zone in games against Cincinnati, New Orleans and Baltimore. Of course, there was also that costly "flinch" at the end of regulation that prevented the Steelers from attempting a winning field goal in Atlanta.

"They say you have to put them out of your mind, but I didn't at first," Washington said of the dropped passes. "I let it bother me. But the more you play the more chances you have to redeem yourself."

Washington will get that opportunity against the Buccaneers, who haven't been able to do anything right in the secondary. They have given up 21 touchdown passes this season -- tied with Green Bay for most in the NFL -- but have only managed five interceptions, tied with the Saints for fewest in the league.


Steelers relatively healthy

The Steelers will be without Ward and safety Troy Polamalu (knee), but the rest of their injured players are expected to play against the Buccaneers.

The lone exception is wide receiver/punt returner Willie Reid (foot/questionable), who has missed the past seven games.


Bringing the heat?

After being sacked nine times against Baltimore, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expects Tampa Bay to repeat some of the same pressure tactics as the Ravens.

One difference: The Buccaneers don't sack the quarterback like the Ravens. They have just 14 sacks this season, tied for fewest in the NFL.

"They watch film. They're going to see that's the way to get things done, to do what we call 'Bring the house,' bring different guys from different positions," Roethlisberger said. "We'll expect to see some of that."

But, even Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden conceded, "We've really struggled defensively."

The Steelers could not counter what the Ravens did defensively. Their longest run was 12 yards (on their fourth play of the game) and their longest pass was 27 yards.

"That's the disadvantage of doing it -- you can get hit for a big play on it," Roethlisberger said. "That's what we need to do to -- be able to hit teams who do that to us for a big play."


Not so hot in cold

The sudden drop in temperature could work against Tampa Bay.

The Bucs are 1-21 when the temperature is below 40 degrees, with the lone victory coming in the 2002 regular-season finale in Chicago. The forecast high for tomorrow is 38 degrees.

"That could be to our advantage," Wilson said.

More bad news for Buccaneers: Three of their next four games are in cold-weather cities.


Another TV date for 'Bachelor'

Fox did not send its top broadcast crew to work the game, but the color analyst is certainly famous.

Former New York Giants quarterback Jesse Palmer, who will work with play-by-play man Ron Pitts, is better known as the star of the reality TV show, "The Bachelor."

Palmer was the object of desire for 25 single women when the show aired in 2004. But his relationship with the woman he eventually chose, Jessica Bowlin, lasted only a few months and he remains single.

Palmer, 28, was a backup with the Giants for four years before being cut in September, 2005. He signed briefly with the San Francisco 49ers last season and was with them in training camp before being cut.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06336/742946-66.stm

83-Steelers-43
12-02-2006, 06:08 AM
Steelers notebook

By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, December 2, 2006


Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden can appreciate what the Steelers are going through this season as the NFL's defending champions. Gruden and the Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII at the conclusion of the 2002 season, then slipped to 7-9 in 2003. "Everybody knows how satisfying it is to beat the world champions," Gruden said. "You're going to get everybody's best shot." Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel couldn't say for certain if opponents have been playing their best football against the Steelers this season, but refused to subscribe to the target-on-their-back theory as an acceptable explanation for the Steelers' 4-7 record. "Maybe they are, but if you want to be the best team you have to play like it and we haven't been doing that," he said. "I still feel like we're a damn good team, but our record doesn't show it."

• Steelers running back Willie Parker is 85 rushing yards shy of his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. The Steelers haven't had back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns from a running back since Jerome Bettis went over 1,000 yards from 1996 through 2001. Parker was held to 22 yards on 10 carries in the Steelers' 27-0 loss last Sunday in Baltimore.

• Parker is three touchdowns shy of tying Louis Lipps' franchise record on 15 in a season (1985). Linebacker Joey Porter needs two sacks to surpass Keith Willis (59) and move into fourth place in Steelers' history.

• For the Steelers, wide receiver/punt returner Willie Reid (foot) was downgraded from questionable to out Friday for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay. Strong safety Troy Polamalu (knee) and wide receiver Hines Ward (knee) also are out.

Linebacker Clark Haggans (hip), linebacker James Harrison (ankle), center Jeff Hartings (knee), wide receiver Sean Morey (toe), Joey Porter (elbow), quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (chest) and cornerback Ike Taylor (concussion) are probable.

Polamalu, Ward, Haggans, Hartings, Porter and Roethlisberger are starters.

For the Buccaneers, free safety Will Allen (ankle), cornerback Juran Bolden (shin), running back Michael Pitman (hamstring/shoulder), linebacker Shelton Quarles (knee/ankle), tight end Alex Smith (ankle) and defensive tackle Ellis Wyms (ankle) are questionable. Allen, Bolden, Quarles and Wyms are starters.

Digits

7 - Number of passes for 25-plus yards completed by Tampa Bay quarterback Bruce Gradkowski in the last four games.

7 - Number of receptions by Joey Galloway that resulted in first downs in his only game against the Steelers (Sept. 27, 1998 with Seattle).

8 - Number of games Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has won in nine career starts against NFC teams.

11 - Number of games Tampa Bay has won in the 11 games against AFC opponents in which Mike Alstott has rushed for a touchdown.

31 - Number of career interceptions for Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber, which ties Donnie Abraham for the franchise record.

184 - Number of franchise-record starts for Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_482368.html