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Steelers Steelers Report: 12/9/02

Monday, December 09, 2002

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


Steelers vs. Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. Sunday, Heinz Field. TV: WPGH. Radio: WBGG-AM (970), WDVE-FM (102.5), Steelers Radio Network. The Steelers are 1-1 vs. Carolina, beating them in their only visit to Pittsburgh, 30-20, in 1999.


Wayne Gandy, Steelers OT, left in the fourth quarter because of a calf injury and did not return. He was to have a magnetic resonance imaging test last night.

John Allred, Steelers TE, left in the first quarter because of a concussion and did not return.

Jermaine Lewis, Texans WR, left in the fourth quarter because of a sprained right ankle and did not return.


The Steelers deactivated TE Mark Bruener (knee), LB John Fiala (knee), C Jeff Smith, G Keydrick Vincent, OT Mathias Nkwenti, LB Justin Kurpeikis, DT Chris Hoke, DT Kendrick Clancy and CB Chidi Iwuoma. The Texans deactivated WR Atnaf Harris (hip), SS Ramon Walker (ankle), WR Avion Black, G Milford Brown, DT Shawn Worthen, DT Willie Blade and CB Demarcus Faggins.

If Steelers QB Tommy Maddox's second consecutive poor performance left blood in the water, backup Kordell Stewart refused the bait. He said he was ready, willing and able to go into yesterday's game at a coach's notice, but he believes Maddox should remain the team's starter. "If my number was going to be called, I was going to go in and do the best I could," Stewart said. Coach Bill Cowher at first stated that Maddox would start next week against the Panthers, then backed off that and said he would see. Stewart would not speculate: "Bill will give you that answer better than I will. I'm just a player on this team trying to get myself prepared in case my number's called. He'll let you know. It is what it is, and we just have to wait and see. As of right now, Tommy's the starting quarterback of this football team. ... It's crazy. When we lose, we're always ready to point the finger at the quarterback and say let's make a change. How the hell will you ever get in sync if you consistently keep changing all the time? The man is the quarterback of this football team, from what I understand right now. ... We need to learn how to just stick with our guys, do what we need to do and let it be what it is. It's part of the game, man. It's part of the game." Maddox has an 83.9 passer rating and Stewart an 82.8. "This is one of those that will sting for awhile," Maddox said.

RB Amos Zereoue, playing most of the second half in place of starter Jerome Bettis, led the Steelers with 69 yards rushing on 11 carries. Bettis had 30 yards on 14 carries. "I just wanted to get Amos Zereoue in there," Cowher said. "We were in the no-huddle a lot, and he is in there for that. I felt like he was running well."

Steelers WR Plaxico Burress had five drops, drawing boos from the crowd in the second half. One of those was an apparent touchdown pass in the fourth quarter which sailed between his hands. "This is probably one of the roughest days I've ever had in my life," he said. "When you go in there and try your hardest, you should never be embarrassed. But I can honestly say that I left a few plays out on the field that would have really boosted our offense and might have changed the outcome of the game. Things did not go my way." Texans CB Kenny Wright said of Burress: "Sometimes, he just drops the ball. I don't know whether it was cold or whether they weren't getting the ball to him early enough or what. But he dropped a couple of balls, and it worked in our favor."

The Texans' offensive output of 47 yards was so awful it made history, as no NFL team had won a game with such little offense. QB David Carr, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NFL draft, was 3 of 10 for 33 yards, and he did little to sugarcoat the offense's performance: "You have mixed feelings right now. We just won the football game, 24-6, and you should be happy, but we didn't do anything. We went backward. We'd have been better off staying on the bus, to tell you the truth." Carr allowed that the Texans became extremely conservative as the game wore on, running bland plays designed to achieve little more than maintaining possession. "Toward the second half of the game, we played not to lose," Carr said. "I'd like to think we could have done a little better. But you get in a situation like that, where the defense is playing so well, you just don't want to screw it up." Carr gave glowing credit to the Houston defense. "There's never any finger-pointing from them. They just go out and do their job. ... They should take the game ball they get and throw it at us."

The Houston defense produced all three of the game's touchdowns and kept the Steelers out of the end zone. It was hardly out of character, given that the Texans were ranked 10th among NFL defenses, but the players still felt it was their finest work to date. "It was a total defensive effort," LB Jamie Sharper said. "We just dominated. The things we did out there, I haven't seen in a long time. Even those great Baltimore defenses, they weren't scoring three touchdowns in one game." Coach Dom Capers was effusive in his praise: "I couldn't be more proud of our football team, the way they hung together and fought out there. They came into Pittsburgh in December and played a first-place team, and that's not an easy task. Today, I thought, was one of the best defensive games ... certainly, it was the best since I've been here. That came against a team that was scoring 28, 29 points a game over the previous six games."

Although they proved that no game is safe, the Steelers still hold a half-game lead over the Browns and would seem to have the easier road over the final three games than the Browns. "It's just going to be a dog race," OT Wayne Gandy said. After playing the Panthers, the Steelers face the Buccaneers on the road, then the Ravens at home. The Browns have the Colts at home, the Ravens on the road and the Falcons at home. "There's no need to hit the panic button," WR Hines Ward said.

Steelers President Dan Rooney made a brief appearance in the Houston locker room to congratulate Texans owner Bob McNair and PK Kris Brown.


Steelers WR Hines Ward broke his own team record for receptions in a season by building his total to 98. The previous high was the 95 he had last season.


Steelers WR Plaxico Burress passed his career high for receiving yards in a season by building his total to 1,026. His previous best was 1,008 last season.

LB Jason Gildon finally broke his tie with Hall of Famer Joe Greene. Gildon's two sacks yesterday raised his career total to 68, two more than Greene. L.C. Greenwood holds the team mark with 73.5. Gildon has 5.5 sacks this season.

The Steelers have no interceptions in the past five games.


Aaron Glenn, Texans QB: "We're not the typical expansion team. We're not going to lay down and say, 'Oh, we're not supposed to win, we're an expansion team.' "


The Steelers continued a trend of losing to expansion teams in their first year of existence under Coach Bill Cowher. They lost at Jacksonville in their first meeting in 1995. They lost to the Browns here in their first season in 1999, albeit their second meeting that year. And now Houston.

They also lost to Carolina, an expansion team in 1995, in their first meeting against the Panthers in 1996. Houston Coach Dom Capers, Cowher's first defensive coordinator, was also coach of that Carolina team.

"These expansion teams are not the expansion teams when the Bucs came in," Steelers OT Wayne Gandy said. "They have defensive personnel. What's going to be said about this is that it was the Houston Texans. When it was New England, we were 'overmatched.' Now that it's the Texans, people are going to question where our hearts are."

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