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|09-21-2006, 12:04 AM||#1|
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Steelers look to regroup quickly for Bengals
Steelers look to regroup quickly for Bengals
By The Associated Press
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Here's the challenge for the Pittsburgh Steelers after their first loss in 10 games: get ready in three days for a game their opponent has waited eight months to play.
When the Steelers swept through the NFL playoffs on the road last season to win the Super Bowl, the Cincinnati Bengals almost couldn't stand to watch. They felt they had the better team ? after all, they won the AFC Central Division, not the Steelers ? and could only wonder if they might have been champions had star quarterback Carson Palmer not gotten hurt on his first pass of the game.
That Palmer badly hurt a knee while being rolled over by defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen, a collision some Bengals suggested could have been avoided, made the injury, their 31-17 loss in Cincinnati and the end to their season even worse.
"They are our rivalry. They are our big rival," Palmer said Wednesday. "I don't think there's a person in this locker room who likes the Steelers or roots for the Steelers."
Now it's a new season and the Bengals clearly believe that the Steelers can be beaten again. Until the Steelers fell 9-0 Monday night in Jacksonville, they hadn't lost since a 38-31 defeat to the Bengals on Dec. 4 in Pittsburgh cost them the division title. A week later, the Steelers began the nine-game winning streak that didn't end until Monday.
Because they weren't even two days removed from the Monday night game, coach Bill Cowher told his players not to report until noon Wednesday and they didn't practice until late afternoon.
"It was a short night to begin with," Cowher said. "And it certainly made it even shorter having to go through that game. But I think it's very important that you keep it in perspective. Certainly we have to play a lot better than we did the other night. ... It's not going to get any easier. So that's the way this business is."
Cowher doesn't have to be reminded that the Bengals have spent considering time trying ? and not successfully ? to get over that playoff loss. He isn't certain how much that emotion will carry over into this game, but he believes the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh rivalry is more competitive than at any previous time in his 15 seasons on the job.
"I don't think there's any question, since I've been here. This is a football team that's playing with a lot of confidence ? deservedly so," Cowher said of the Bengals. "They're playing at a high level, and certainly right now they're the defending divisional champs. I think when you get teams that play at high levels, it creates a rivalry within the division. There's no question that this is the best football team we've played from Cincinnati."
Still, Cowher knows that Monday's shutout loss was partly the result of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger playing one of the worst regular-season games of his three-season career. Roethlisberger, playing for the first time in a game that counted since his scary June 12 motorcycle accident and his emergency appendectomy, was 17-of-32 for 141 yards and two interceptions.
Looking rusty and not up to game speed, Roethlisberger played much like he did in a 26-7 loss to Indianapolis on Nov. 28 when he was 17-of-26 for 133 yards, one TD and two interceptions following a three-week layoff for knee surgery. It was the last below-average game he would play until the Super Bowl.
Wide receiver Hines Ward, who missed much of training camp with a sore hamstring, said he expects Roethlisberger to be much sharper this week.
"I think we'll be fine," Ward said. "Really, our timing's going to be a little better this week than it was."
Notes: Rookie WR Santonio Holmes (foot) is questionable, as is S Troy Polamalu (shoulder). ... Polamalu played Monday with the same injury. ... Von Oelhoffen is no longer with the Steelers after signing with the Jets. ... The Steelers were 1-2 the week after a Monday night game last season, losing to the Bengals and Jaguars but beating the Packers.
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