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|12-09-2010, 07:59 PM||#1|
A Son of Martha
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Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati
Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati
TIME: 01:00 P.M. EST
VENUE: Heinz Field
The Pittsburgh Steelers took control of their own destiny in the AFC North with a win in their last game, but they also added to their ever-growing injury list.
Despite undergoing surgery for a broken nose, Ben Roethlisberger expects to play Sunday when the Steelers host the woeful Cincinnati Bengals, who are trying to avoid matching the franchise record for most consecutive losses in one season.
Pittsburgh (9-3) beat Baltimore 13-10 on Sunday to take over sole possession of first place in the division while moving closer to a potential first-round bye in the playoffs.
"It's just one game," Roethlisberger said. "When you start looking at it that way, you start to get into trouble. All I know is we have the Bengals."
As expected, it was another defensive battle. Roethlisberger threw for 253 yards and passed for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter after Pittsburgh got the ball back following a fumble caused by Troy Polamalu.
The Steelers have returned to their trademark defense during a three-game win streak, giving up 29 points while allowing opponents to average 260 total yards. They gave up 80 points in their previous three games - a stretch that included losses to New Orleans and New England.
Sunday's victory over the Ravens didn't come without more injuries. Roethlisberger broke his nose on Pittsburgh's first series, although he still put together another solid performance. He underwent surgery Monday and despite also dealing with a sprained right foot, is expected to start Sunday.
"That's Ben," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We expect that from him, not that it's unappreciated. But we expect it from him, he expects it from himself."
Roethlisberger is 9-4 as a starter against the Bengals, throwing for 163 yards and one touchdown in a 27-21 victory Nov. 8. He is just 3-3 at home against Cincinnati, including last season's 18-12 loss.
While the Steelers quarterback, who will wear a plastic shield on his helmet to protect his nose, isn't expected to miss any time despite two significant injuries, tight end Heath Miller is doubtful after suffering a concussion against the Ravens. Miller has 33 catches for 384 yards and one touchdown.
"Heath Miller is experiencing the discomfort that goes along with concussions," Tomlin said Tuesday. "We'll see if it picks up as the week goes along. Of course, if we're going to err, we're going to err on the side of caution when it comes to players' health."
Punter Daniel Sepulveda suffered a torn ACL in his right knee and is out for the season. The Steelers signed Jeremy Kapinos to replace him. Right tackle Flozell Adams (high ankle sprain) is also unlikely to play while defensive end Aaron Smith (torn triceps tendon) remains out.
Matt Spaeth would start if Miller is unable to go. Spaeth sustained a concussion against Oakland on Nov. 21 and has missed the last two games.
While the Steelers are gearing up for a run at the playoffs after missing the postseason last year, the Bengals (2-10), AFC North champions in 2009, are trying to end a nine-game losing streak.
The latest loss, a 34-30 defeat to New Orleans on Sunday, came in especially agonizing fashion. Trailing by three with 34 seconds left, the Saints had a 4th-and-2 at the Cincinnati 7 when Pat Sims was drawn offsides, giving New Orleans a first down. On the next play, the Saints scored on a 3-yard touchdown pass.
"You start thinking about the winning feeling and you start feeling like you're close to a win," Carson Palmer said. "Then when it gets taken away, it's just frustrating."
Frustration seems to be mounting in Cincinnati.
After the touchdown, the Bengals returned the kickoff to the 49 with 22 seconds to go and Palmer completed a 14-yard pass on the next play. But coach Marvin Lewis decided to let the clock run instead of using a timeout as Cincinnati struggled to get into formation, leading a visibly irritated Palmer to signal with 8 seconds left.
Because of the wasted time, the Bengals now only had a chance for one long throw to the end zone but Palmer was sacked on the final play.
Terrell Owens, who had six catches in the loss, also vented this week, frustrated by the play calling.
"Everybody's frustrated, but I feel like I can be part of the solution as well," he told the Bengals' official website. "Go back and watch the film. I can play this game. There ain't nobody I feel can stop me when I'm out there. That's just confidence, it's not arrogance."
Owens leads the team with 71 catches and is 39 yards shy of reaching 1,000 receiving for the 10th time.
A loss to the Steelers would tie the 1993 Bengals for most consecutive losses in one season. That team under David Shula lost its first 10 games en route to a 3-13 finish.
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