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Steelers Steelers Report: 9/22/2003

Monday, September 22, 2003

By Ed Bouchette and Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writers

LOOKING AHEAD

Titans vs. Steelers, 1 p.m. Sunday, Heinz Field. TV: KDKA. Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970) and Steelers Radio Network.

WHO'S HURTING

Chidi Iwuoma, Steelers CB, left in the third quarter with a concussion but returned. He was to have his neck X-rayed.

Corey Dillon, Bengals RB, left in the second quarter with a groin injury and did not return. It was the second consecutive game he could not complete. Coach Marvin Lewis described him as day to day, adding that more could be known today or tomorrow.

Matt Schobel, Bengals TE, left in the second quarter with an aggravation of a hamstring injury and did not return.

Reggie Myles, Bengals CB, left in the third quarter with a left shoulder injury and did not return.

Oliver Gibson, Bengals DT, left in the fourth quarter with a left arm injury and did not return.

NEWS & NOTES

The Steelers could have pulled off a rare football play near the end of the first half, but chose not to do so. Nick Harris punted from the Bengals' 16 with 10 seconds left. Antwaan Randle El fielded the ball at the Steelers' 46 and ran 3 yards before he was tackled. Had Randle El signaled for a fair catch, coach Bill Cowher could have sent K Jeff Reed to try a 64-yard field goal on a free kick. In such a kick, the Bengals would not be permitted to defend against it. The little-known rule applies only when a fair catch is made on a punt or kickoff. During practice, Reed bounced one off the crossbar from 65 yards away at the same goal post. Cowher said he knew the rule and thought about the kick, but "where we were, it would have to be a really short kick to fair catch. You have to fair catch. I used to practice it. But in all of the years I've been in the National Football League, I've never seen it either."

The grass at Paul Brown Stadium came up in clumps the way the previous surface at Heinz Field did. It cost the Bengals at least two long returns, one on a kickoff and one on a punt, when Brandon Bennett and Peter Warrick slipped. The Bengals are studying various surfaces and likely will install something else next year.

Steelers G Alan Faneca had a ferocious day that included two blocks Bengals LB Adrian Ross won't soon forget. Faneca knocked Ross on his back on one block and knocked the helmet off his head on another. He said it was nice to knock some opponents down for a change. "The defense gets so many chances all game long" to do that, Faneca said. "It just fires everybody up a little bit. That's nice." The NFL doesn't keep statistics such as "helmets knocked off" but "we'll have to create a new stat, I guess," Faneca said. His teammates noticed. "Faneca was knocking guys left and right today," WR Hines Ward said. "He knocked one guy's helmet off. He really had a tremendous day today."

Steelers LB Kendrell Bell had two sacks, both from the right rush end position in the dime defense. It marked the fifth time in his three seasons he has had a two-sack day. One of those came last season, when he finished with only four sacks after getting nine the previous year, in which he was NFL Rookie Defensive Player of the Year. Bell is trying to get used to playing every down as the starting inside linebacker and his new roles in the nickel and dime defenses. He had no sacks in the first two games and admitted not playing as well as he did yesterday. "I was a little winded, just trying to get used to playing four downs," he said. "Putting me out there for the first time, a lot of people said he'll get a lot of sacks. It's not that easy. Getting two sacks, personally I felt good but I know better. I know I still have to work."

When asked if he was surprised to start the season 0-3, Marvin Lewis, the Bengals' rookie coach, laughed loudly before turning serious again and responding: "Nothing can surprise you, but I didn't want to be 0-3. We are going to deal with things, though, and move forward. We played three football teams that are very good, as everybody knows, and this could have happened." The Bengals' first two losses were to the Broncos and Raiders.

It could be that Lewis' awareness of the Bengals' recent history -- they are 0-3 for the seventh time in the past 13 years -- prompted his unusual reaction. Many of Cincinnati's players spoke yesterday of maintaining the confidence and upbeat feeling Lewis has attempted to bring to the organization, but most of those players also recall that it took eight games before the first victory last season. "You just have to get that first one," LB Kevin Hardy said. "We have to keep everybody focused on what we're trying to do here, and that means getting ready for Cleveland next week."

Although QB Jon Kitna is growing increasingly unpopular in Cincinnati -- the clamor is for No. 1 overall pick Carson Palmer to get the job immediately -- Lewis issued a terse reply of "No," when asked if he is considering a switch. Kitna was 16 of 24 for 157 yards with a touchdown and interception.

Lewis did not start WR Chad Johnson because he violated a team rule, but neither he nor Johnson would comment on specifics. If Johnson's punishment fit the crime, it could not have been terribly severe, given that he joined his teammates on the field after missing only three plays.

Lewis explained that he decided to punt from the Steelers' 36 and 33 in the first half rather than try field goals because of the wind coming from the partially open end of Paul Brown Stadium that faces the Ohio River.

INACTIVE LISTS

Steelers: RB Verron Haynes (knee), TE Mark Bruener, WR Freddie Milons, G Keydrick Vincent, OT Mathias Nkwenti, DT Chris Hoke and LB Alonzo Jackson.

Bengals: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring), LB Riall Johnson (calf), HB Rudi Johnson, G Victor Leyva, LB Keyon Whiteside, DE Elton Patterson and CB Dennis Weathersby.

FOR THE RECORD

The crowd of 64,596 was the largest at Paul Brown Stadium since it opened in 2000. The previous high was 64,217 on Oct. 14, 2000, for a game against the Browns. Many of those on hand yesterday were supporting the Steelers.

NUMBERS

Steelers WR Hines Ward caught his third touchdown pass of the season. He tied the team record with 12 touchdown catches last season. He needs six more receptions to pass Lynn Swann, who has 358, for second place on the team's all-time list.

Steelers coach Bill Cowher ran his record to 17-6 against the Bengals, five more wins than he has against any other team. Cowher also improved to 6-4 against former assistants who became head coaches. All six have come against the Bengals -- five vs. Dick LeBeau and one vs. new coach Marvin Lewis.

Steelers FB Dan Kreider carried the ball a career-high three times and gained 13 yards. He also caught two passes for 7 yards. Kreider already has four carries in three games this season after getting only six opportunities in 2002.

Steelers K Jeff Reed missed a 24-yard field-goal try, the shortest miss of his brief career and his first miss in seven attempts this season. He is 24 of 27 since joining the Steelers in November.

The 1-yard touchdown run by Steelers RB Jerome Bettis was his first score since Dec. 15, 2002, when he scored twice against Carolina.

After having 82 passes and 49 rushes in the first two games, the Steelers had 34 passes and 38 rushes yesterday.

The Steelers are 10-3 in Cincinnati since 1991.

The Bengals are 0-7 within the AFC North Division since it was created, having gone 0-6 against the Steelers, Browns and Ravens last season.

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