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Old 11-22-2008, 09:57 AM   #1
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Default Bires: On the Steelers beat

Bires: On the Steelers beat
By Mike Bires
Times Sports Staff
Published: Saturday, November 22, 2008 12:09 AM EST

Random notes from the Steelers beat:

* “Big Play” William Gay didn’t quite live up to his nickname Thursday night. But in his second pro start, he once again showed flashes of brilliance.

A cornerback taken in the fifth round of last year’s draft, Gay didn’t make any slash plays. No interceptions. No sacks. No forced fumbles. But in a 27-10 win over Cincinnati, he was impressive nonetheless.

For much of the night — especially when the Bengals used three wide receivers — Gay shadowed T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who came to Pittsburgh as the NFL leader with 73 receptions. But against the Steelers, the league’s top-ranked defense, Houshmandzadeh caught only four passes for 20 yards. Do the math. That’s a measly 5.0 yards per catch.

That speaks volume of how well Gay played.

Because he’s so inexperienced, Gay was tested early by the Bengals. On their first third-down situation of the game, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw to Houshmandzadeh. On that third-and-6 call, T.J. made the catch, but was stopped after a 4-yard gain, forcing the Bengals to punt.

And besides a strong defense, Gay nearly sacked Fitzpatrick a couple of times on blitzes.

With Bryant McFadden ready to return from a broken arm, Gay probably won’t start Nov. 30 when the Steelers play the New England Patriots. But Gay certainly is showing that he has quite a future as a pro.

He’s going to make a good Steelers’ secondary even better.

* The feeling among several Cincinnati beat reporters is that Marvin Lewis won’t be fired after this season even if the 1-9-1 Bengals continue to struggle.

Lewis, once a Steelers linebackers coach, is getting some credit for at least keeping the injury-riddled Bengals somewhat competitive in recent weeks. They played the Steelers without seven starters (four on offense, three on defense) and the game was still close for a half.

Still, it’s so obvious that all this losing is taking its toll on Lewis, a former WPIAL star who played at Fort Cherry High School. He looks and sounds like a coach who’s taking a beating.

And when a coach has to keep answering questions about his future, well, that just does not bode well.

Such was the case after Thursday night’s game.

When a reporter asked Lewis if he’s thought about not being back next year, he said, “No, I have not.”

But for the Bengals to turn things around, the franchise needs significant change.

Cutting trouble-maker Chad Ocho Cinco might help.

Changing coaches may help, too.

* Lewis didn’t do himself any favors by kicking a field goal with 6:47 left to play when the Bengals trailed 20-7.

It was fourth-and-goal from the Steelers’ 8-yard line. But by kicking a field goal, the Bengals still needed two scores to tie or overtake the Steelers.

Granted, scoring a TD on fourth-and-goal from the 8 against the NFL’s top-ranked red zone defense, no less, wouldn’t be easy. But what did the Bengals have to lose?

By kicking the field goal, Lewis basically conceded defeat.

* Paul Ernster punted so poorly against the Bengals that coach Mike Tomlin described it as “horrible.”

Tomlin also suggested that after Ernster averaged 28.4 yards per punt on five kicks that the Steelers could be changing punters for the second time this season.

How about Josh Miller, the ex-Steeler who was on the Tennessee Titans roster briefly this season?

Miller is 38 but can still kick better than Ernster.

Or how about Chris Gardocki, who kicked for the Steelers after Miller went to the New England Patriots?

Gardocki is 38, too. But he can still kick better than Ernster.

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