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83-Steelers-43
12-29-2006, 11:23 PM
Steelers Notebook: Bengals reeling from big gaffe
Saturday, December 30, 2006

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Bill Cowher was asked earlier this week if he has any extra incentive to knock a division rival from the playoff picture, which the Steelers can do tomorrow against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"Misery loves company, and we're looking for company," Cowher said.

The Bengals (8-7) need a victory against the Steelers (7-8) and a lot of outside help if they want to make the playoffs for the second year in a row under coach Marvin Lewis. But they also need to shake the debilitating effects of what happened last Sunday in Denver, when a botched extra point with 41 seconds remaining cost them in a 24-23 loss to the Broncos.

The Steelers, who have won five of their past seven games, were eliminated from playoff contention six days ago when they lost, 31-7, to the Baltimore Ravens. But, they, too, have to forget the shock and disappointment of two embarrassing defeats in five weeks to the Ravens, who outscored them, 58-7.

It was the worst season-series performance against a divisional opponent since the Steelers lost two games to the Cleveland Browns by a combined 45-0 in 1951.

"You can't worry about that," Lewis said of the botched extra point in Denver. "We had a lot of plays in that game that made a bigger difference, as big a difference, as that snap. We shouldn't have been in the tied situation, anyway. I think that is the biggest thing, all the errors and mistakes that were made up to that point."

The Steelers can't be that conciliatory. The best they can do is lament letting the Ravens score a touchdown on the first series of the second half that made the score 21-7. Or that Willie Parker's fumble at the Ravens' 3 deprived them of a chance to cut the deficit to 21-14.

"It disappoints you, if anything," said linebacker Joey Porter. "As far as them running the ball, I feel like we stopped that, for the most part. But, when you're in a rivalry game, where you know each other so well, you got to find a way to eliminate big plays. That's going to be a difference-maker in the game, and it was the difference-maker in the game."

An unwelcome, early finish

It was earlier in the season than they were accustomed. And more than a month earlier than last season.

The Steelers held their final full practice yesterday at their South Side facility, a strange feeling for a bunch of players used to appearing in the playoffs.

"It felt a little weird, knowing the season is over," said inside linebacker James Farrior. "We're used to our routine."

Last year, the Steelers practiced into February, right up to the Friday before Super Bowl XL.

"That's a good practice," nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "This isn't a good last practice."

Of course, it isn't the final practice of the season for Hampton and three other Steelers players. He is going to Hawaii with the AFC Pro Bowl team, along with Parker, guard Alan Faneca, and safety Troy Polamalu.

A downer for Johnson

Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson is fifth in the AFC with 83 catches, but he leads the NFL in receiving yards with 1,316. In his past four games against the Steelers, however, Johnson has been a non-factor, catching 14 passes for 218 yards and no touchdowns.

Johnson has been inconsistent and sloppy in the Bengals' past two games, both losses. He has dropped five passes -- four against the Broncos -- and also lost a fumble.

He has yet to do the touchdown dance he has promised for two years for the Steelers.

"We have to wait and see what happens this week," Johnson said.

"Hopefully, I can get in [the end zone]. If not, I hope we can come away with a win. I am looking forward to it. It is going to be a fun game.

"It is a good way to end the season and, hopefully, we can end it right. What better way to go out than playing the Pittsburgh Steelers."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06364/750079-66.stm

83-Steelers-43
12-29-2006, 11:24 PM
Steelers notebook

By Mike Prisuta
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, December 30, 2006


? The Steelers didn't make it to the postseason, but the togetherness and chemistry the players often referenced during last season's Super Bowl run survived the slide to 7-8, according to defensive end Brett Keisel. "There really is a genuine brotherhood here. I wouldn't want to be on any other team," Keisel said. "That makes it that much harder being in this situation, because we know we're a good team."

? The changing nature of NFL rosters from one season to the next suggests a number of Steelers could be playing their final games with the team Sunday in Cincinnati. Safety Mike Logan realizes he could be in that group. "I felt pretty good this year," said Logan, a 32-year-old West Mifflin native and a McKeesport High School graduate. "We'll see what happens. I'm not naive to the situation in our secondary. I'm the oldest safety on the roster, and we've had some young guys that have stepped up to the plate. You have to start looking at that if you're interested in furthering your career."

? The Steelers' injury report reads as follows: Linebacker James Harrison (shoulder) was upgraded from questionable to probable Friday. Safety Ryan Clark (groin), linebacker Clark Haggans (knee) and offensive tackle Max Starks (knee) are out. Center Jeff Hartings (knee), linebacker Clint Kriewaldt (neck), safety Andre Lott (ankle), safety Troy Polamalu (knee), quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder) and cornerback Deshea Townsend (hand) are probable. Clark, Haggans, Starks, Hartings, Polamalu, Roethlisberger and Townsend are starters.

? Bengals center Rich Braham (knee) was downgraded from doubtful to out, and offensive tackle Levi Jones (knee) was downgraded from questionable to doubtful. Defensive tackle Sam Adams (illness), offensive tackle Willie Anderson (foot), linebacker A.J. Nicholson (illness), defensive end Bryan Robinson (toe), guard Eric Steinbach (illness) and safety Madieu Williams (thigh) are probable. Adams, Anderson, Jones, Robinson, Steinbach and Williams are starters. Braham announced his retirement Wednesday and won't dress Sunday, but he will be honored with a pregame ceremony. The first 40,000 fans to enter Paul Brown Stadium will receive posters of Braham, the seventh player to play at least 13 seasons in Cincinnati.

Digits

1 - Number of sacks needed for defensive end Aaron Smith to move into a tie for 10th place on the Steelers' all-time list (with Gary Dunn at 35; Smith has 4 1/2 sacks this season).

2 - Number of touchdowns running back Willie Parker needs to eclipse Louis Lipps' franchise record for TDs in a season (15 in 1985).

3 - Number of Bill Cowher's former assistants on the Bengals' coaching staff (head coach Marvin Lewis, defensive line coach Jay Hayes and offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski).

3 - Number of former Bengals assistants on Cowher's staff (defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, defensive backs coach Darren Perry, assistant defensive backs coach Ray Horton).

5 - Number of times the Steelers have scored at least 20 points in their last seven games.

15 - Number of receiving yards needed by Santonio Holmes to compile the most by a rookie in the Cowher era. Troy Edwards had 714 in 1999.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_486337.html