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Old 12-25-2006, 06:35 AM   #1
lamberts-lost-tooth
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Default Steelers Notebook: Wrong domino fell for Steelers

Monday, December 25, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



The Steelers needed a lot of dominoes to fall for them to remain in contention for a wild-card berth yesterday. They got most of them except the one they needed the most, at Heinz Field.

They needed a win by Kansas City Saturday and got it. They needed a loss by Jacksonville to New England and got it. They needed a victory by Tennessee against Buffalo and got it.

They needed a loss by Cincinnati at Denver and got it.

If the Steelers had beaten Baltimore yesterday, they would have gone to Cincinnati for a New Year's Eve game still in contention for a wild-card berth. As it turns out, their 31-7 loss was not close. There have been other losses, close ones, to look back on and regret, especially when they started the season 2-6.

"I've never had a season like this," center Jeff Hartings said. "I've played 11, and never had a season like this season where so many games we had opportunities to win.

"Losing this game certainly shouldn't be the reason we're out of the playoffs. It has a lot to do with the first eight games and not taking care of business when it was there to take care of.

"That's probably the reason why we're in this situation -- not probably, it is the reason."


Hartings ponders future


Hartings, 34, sounded a little like his head coach when he said he will take some time after the season to decide whether he wants to play a 12th season.

He has had knee injuries and knee aches that have bothered him for much of his six seasons with the Steelers.

"I've always played the game because I loved playing the game," he said. "I always knew the only thing that would keep me from loving the game is pain.

"So, in the next month, I'll evaluate how much pain it's worth. I think even a bigger thing is whether I think I can give my teammates what they gave me. And, I know at times this year I haven't been able to do that -- sitting out of practices and even some games."

The Steelers kept two other pure centers on their roster this season, backup Chukky Okobi and rookie Marvin Philip.


Tough day for Parker



It has been an up-and-down week for Steelers running back Willie Parker. Unfortunately for him, the down part came in yesterday's 31-7 thrashing.

Parker, who was named to the AFC squad Tuesday for February's Pro Bowl in Honolulu, was held for just 29 yards on 13 carries. But Parker, whose 1,360 yards on the season is the fourth best in team history, had a tough game go really sour early in the fourth quarter.

Trailing 21-7, the Steelers were in the midst of a drive from their 2 when on a first-and-10 play from the Ravens' 11, Parker carried up the middle inside the 5. As he fought for extra yards, he had the ball stripped by the Ravens' Corey Ivy and recovered by Baltimore safety Ed Reed, who returned it 32 yards to the Ravens' 35. It crushed the last chance the Steelers had to get back into the game.

"[The fumble] changed everything," Parker said. "I take the good with the good, but on that fumble it was my fault, so I take the bad with the bad. I thought I was down at first, but I looked at the replay, and I saw I wasn't."

The Steelers challenged on the play, but lost.


Still one to play


While the Steelers are out of the playoff picture at 7-8, they still have a New Year's Eve date with rival Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium. And while it won't have any impact on their playoff hopes, it could for the Bengals.

"We still play Cincinnati," Hines Ward said. "We have a chance to spoil things for them and we still have a chance to get back to .500."


Rookie stands out


Team results aside, rookie Willie Colon did not embarrass himself in his first NFL start at right tackle against the best defense in the NFL.

That defense sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times -- down from nine in their game last month in Baltimore. Colon was absolved of any by the team's co-captain.

"I don't think he gave up a sack," All-Pro guard Alan Faneca said. "It seemed like he was doing a pretty good job over there."

Max Starks had knee surgery last week, so Colon, a fourth-round pick from Hofstra, suited up for and played in his first NFL game.

"I wanted to go out there and be as effective as I possible could," Colon said. "I give thanks to Kendall Simmons because he stood in there and believed in me and was able to communicate when things happened."


Private conversation


Coach Bill Cowher and Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis spoke after the game. Cowher was asked what was said. "Nothing that I need to share. I have a lot of respect for him as a football player and as a person."


Sack happy


The Ravens have a chance to become the first team in NFL history to have four players get at least 10 sacks. With a game remaining Sunday at home against Buffalo, defensive tackle Trevor Pryce has 12, outside linebacker Adalius Thomas 10.5, linebacker Bart Scott 9.5 and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs 8.5.

Even though the Ravens had five sacks yesterday, only Suggs, credited with a half sack, improved his total.


Quote the Ravens


Baltimore coach Brian Billick on Steve McNair: "How many times do we have to say it: He is a phenomenal athlete. Phenomenal cool. It is a gift to have him with us."

Tight end Todd Heap on the Ravens' dominance of the Steelers: "They still played tough. They're still the champions and now they're not going back to the playoffs. But we still respect what they are capable of doing and the type of team they are."


Injury report


Linebacker Clark Haggans left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury but returned in the third quarter. Cornerback Deshea Townsend left in the second half with a hand injury. Linebacker James Harrison's shoulder was injured.


Quick hits


Willie Parker's 13 carries gave him 300, the fourth Steelers back to carry that often. ... Ben Roethlisberger threw his 22nd interception, the most since Terry Bradshaw threw 22 in 1980. With five sacks yesterday, he has been sacked 45 times this season, the most since Bubby Brister was sacked 45 times in '89. His 3,248 passing yards this season rank fourth in team history and he became the eighth Steelers quarterback to pass for 8,000 yards in his career with 8,014. ... Santonio Holmes had 90 yards receiving, second best for him this season. ... The Steelers had won the previous five games against Baltimore at Heinz Field, including a 2001 playoff game. ... Steve McNair's three-touchdown performance was the 16th of his career. ... Baltimore's 23 first downs yesterday were a season-high.


Inactives


Steelers: No. 3 QB Brian St. Pierre, S Ryan Clark, S Andre Lott, LB Clint Kriewaldt, C Marvin Philip, G Chris Kemoeatu, OT Max Starks, WR Lee Mays.

Ravens: CB Jamaine Winborne, CB David Pittman, RB P.J. Daniels, FB Nick Luchey, DT Atiyyah Ellison, OT Jonathan Ogden, WR Devard Darling, WR Clarence Moore.
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