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Steelers Steelers Report: 9/7/03

Monday, September 08, 2003

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

LOOKING AHEAD

Steelers vs. Chiefs, 1 p.m. Sunday, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo. TV: KDKA. Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970) and Steelers Radio Network. The past seven meetings between these teams have been at Arrowhead, with the Steelers going 4-3.

WHO'S HURTING

Jerome Bettis, Steelers RB, left in the third quarter because of a groin injury that is not believed serious.

Jay Riemersma, Steelers TE, left the game in the fourth quarter because of an ankle injury, also not believed serious.

Aaron Smith, Steelers DE, has what might be a broken ring finger.

Corey Fuller, Ravens CB, did not play in the second half because of a strained left quadriceps.

NEWS & NOTES

In somewhat of a surprise, TE Mark Bruener did not dress for the game, one of seven inactives for the Steelers. When coach Bill Cowher named Jay Riemersma as his starting tight end after two exhibition games, he said Bruener would play often and had continued to say that since. Bruener, listed as No. 2 on the depth chart, was the only one of four tight ends on the roster not to dress. The others were Jerame Tuman and Matt Cushing, who also serves as the backup fullback. "It's going to be a week-to-week decision," Cowher said. "What happened is that Clark Haggans starting hurt our special teams. We had to preserve him. We needed Jerame Tuman and Matt Cushing for special teams. Mark, being the competitor, he was disappointed. But, being the professional he is, he understood it."

Steelers cornerbacks were called for three pass interference penalties and one holding penalty. Dewayne Washington, who otherwise played a magnificent game against the run and the pass, was flagged twice for 57 yards in penalties on the Ravens' first scoring drive. Chad Scott also was caught for holding, a 5-yard penalty on that drive, after he was flagged 38 yards for a pass interference penalty earlier. Scott also dropped an interception. "We don't want that many," said Cowher, who replaced Washington for one play with Deshea Townsend because of the penalties. "I took him out the one time because I did not want it getting to the point where we were playing basketball. I told him he has to get in position where he can look back for the ball and they won't call that. He will be fine, and they are two veteran guys and make a lot of plays for us." Washington did just that against the run, coming up to make several big tackles, twice on third downs. "That's the life of a cornerback," Washington said. "We're out there on an island and at any given time, something like that can happen. Obviously, you have to go back and look at it and correct it next week."

James Farrior and Haggans did well filling in for injured LB Joey Porter. Farrior played in every defense, subbing for Porter at middle linebacker in the dime, and led the Steelers with 13 tackles. Haggans replaced Porter at right outside linebacker and also at right rush end in the nickel defense. He had one of the Steelers' two sacks and was tied for second with nine tackles. Haggans said having Porter on the sideline was inspiring: "Oh, yeah, he was the No. 1 cheerleader. You could hear him out there on the field. The crowd was loud but you could also hear Joey's voice. He was hopping and dancing around. You wouldn't think anything was wrong with him the way he was moving. It was great to see him on the sideline. I know he was out there with everyone in spirit."

DE Aaron Smith also had a big game, making a habit of stopping Ravens RB Jamal Lewis. After one tackle, Smith kicked his right foot a la Porter's "boot." "It was for Joey," Smith said. "I'm just in awe of him. Joey got us worked up before the game. I figured if I had a chance, I was going to show him he was still out there in spirit with us."

Ravens QB Kyle Boller, the first rookie opponent at his position to debut in a season opener in Pittsburgh since John Elway in 1984, will have little to remember from the event. He finished 22 of 43 for 152 yards and a touchdown, but 12 of his completions and the touchdown came in the fourth quarter after the game was out of hand. Most often, Boller was late in his decision-making and delivery. Still, coach Brian Billick said he was pleased that Boller, the Ravens' first-round pick in the most recent NFL draft, improved as the game moved along. "He's a pretty resilient kid," Billick said. "He was very focused on what he needed to do." Boller looked anything but flustered afterward, smiling easily during his interview session. "I hate losing," he said. "To come in here and have a loss, the only way I can make up for that is to make sure that doesn't happen next week. If I need to put in the extra work, I'm going to do that."

With RB Jerome Bettis not starting and the offense getting the pregame introductions, WR Hines Ward was the last to be announced, to a loud cheer.

Hank Williams Jr. sang the national anthem, an unannounced surprise. Upon completing it, he shouted to the crowd: "Hey, Pittsburgh! Are you ready for some football?"

INACTIVE LISTS

Steelers: LB Joey Porter (thigh), TE Mark Bruener, WR Freddie Milons, G Keydrick Vincent, OT Mathias Nkwenti, DT Chris Hoke and LB Erik Flowers.

Ravens: WR Frank Sanders (foot), RB Musa Smith (knee), CB Alvin Porter (groin), CB Tommy Knight (thigh), FB Ovie Mughelli, OT Damion Cook and DT Aubrayo Franklin.

FOR THE RECORD

WR Hines Ward passed Hall of Fame receiver Lynn Swann into third place on the Steelers' all-time receiving list. He caught nine passes to give him 339 career receptions. Swann had 336. Ward has set the Steelers' single-season record each of the past two years with 94 in 2001 and 112 last season. His nine yesterday puts him on pace for 144. "We have a great receiving corps here," Ward said. "Somewhere down the line, people are going to start giving us credit. You look at the Steelers, and you wouldn't think about our passing game and our wideouts. Hopefully, after our performance today, people will recognize us as being a great tandem."

NUMBERS

WR Antwaan Randle El took three snaps at quarterback and was sacked for a 10-yard loss on one of them.

Steelers LB Kendrell Bell's interception in the first quarter was the first of his NFL career. He returned it 42 yards to the Baltimore 28.

The Steelers have beaten the Ravens five consecutive times and are 12-4 against them since the franchise moved to Baltimore.

The victory snapped a string of three season-opening losses for the Steelers.

LB Clint Kriewaldt led the Steelers with three special teams tackles.

Steelers RB Amos Zereoue finished with 56 yards on 15 carries, but he heard boos from the crowd in the second quarter after his fourth consecutive carry for a loss or no gain.

At the half, the Ravens were limited to five first downs and 101 total net yards. But 58 of those yards came on Steelers penalties.

Only five of the Steelers' 21 first downs came by rushing.

HE SAID IT

Brian Billick, Ravens coach, asked if the Steelers are the team to beat in the AFC North Division: "They are the team to beat. I said that before the season, and I can't imagine anyone having a different perspective now. They're 1-0, and the rest of us are 0-1."

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