Homefield Advantage Put To the Test

Will this week be the time for the Bengals to get win No. 1? To do so, not only will they have to break their own six-game overall losing streak but they'll have to stop a Pittsburgh team that has not lost in Cincinnati since 2001 with a QB in Ben Roethlisberger who is 10-0 lifetime in his home state of Ohio.

WHO: Cincinnati Bengals (0-6) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1)

WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium

WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

SERIES: 76th regular season meeting; Steelers lead series, 45-30, plus lead 1-0 in postseason.

LAST MEETING: Steelers won, 24-10, at Heinz Field on 12/02/07.

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Steelers hope to get RB Willie Parker back after a two-game absence, but are prepared to go with Mewelde Moore if not. The bye week afforded a beat up roster some much-needed rest, but there is still concern over QB Ben Roethlisberger's long-term health due to the amount of big hits he takes. If Cincinnati is to be competitive Sunday, the Bengals' feeble pass rush (just 5.0 sacks on the season) has to get after Big Ben and force a few turnovers. ... The Bengals rank 31st with 72.2 rushing yards per game and dead last with 3.1 yards per carry. RBs Cedric Benson and Chris Perry will take their shots against the league's No. 2 run defense, while QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his third start of the season. Coach Marvin Lewis said the team has to rely more on WRs Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but that will be difficult if Fitzpatrick is constantly backed into third-and-long.

KEY INJURIES: Steelers: Parker (knee) tweaked his injury in practice Monday and could be a game-time decision; LT Marvel Smith (back spasms) would be replaced by Max Starks. Bengals: QB Carson Palmer (elbow) is out this week and head coach Marvin Lewis said on Friday that Palmer would probably be held out of next week's game at Houston as well.

FAST FACTS: The Steelers' 18 sacks is half of their total from all of last season. ... Houshmandzadeh leads all NFL wide receiver with 14 third-down receptions.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Bengals:

*LB Corey Mays (ankle) is out for the Steelers game Sunday.

*C Kyle Cook (toe) is out.

*K Shayne Graham (right groin, kicking leg) was limited in practice Thursday and followed his normal routine of not kicking on Friday. He did not practice Wednesday and might miss his second game in a row. He is supposed to try to kick Thursday at practice, Marvin Lewis said. The Bengals signed Dave Rayner, who kicked against the Jets.

*S Dexter Jackson (thumb), who has missed five games, practiced in full this week.

*DT John Thornton (Achilles) missed the Jets game but might be back for the Steelers. He practiced fully this week.

*S Herana-Daze Jones (hamstring) might not play against the Steelers. He injured the leg in the first half against the Jets. He missed practice Wednesday and Thursday.

*CB Jamar Fletcher (hamstring) did not practice this week, and is expected to miss the Steelers game Sunday.

*RB Chris Perry (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday but did practice fully Thursday.

*LT Levi Jones (back) did practice fully Thursday after missing the Wednesday practice.

*TE Ben Utecht (chest) did not practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday and Friday.

*WR Glenn Holt (ankle) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. Rookie Andre Caldwell might get the opportunity to return kickoffs.

*WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (ankle) did not practice Wednesday but was limited Thursday and Friday. He is expected to play Sunday.

*CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle) did not practice Wednesday but was limited Thursday. He is expected to start Sunday.

*LB Dhani Jones (foot) did not practice Wednesday but had full participation Thursday. He is expected to start Sunday.

Steelers:

*RB Gary Russell will pick up much of the third-down play if Mewelde Moore starts for the injured Willie Parker in Cincinnati.

*PR/KR Jayson Foster could be added to the 53-man roster soon if he shows anything in practice. The Steelers are desperate for return men and signed the rookie to their practice squad this week.

*TE Heath Miller could be used as a receiver more vs. Cincinnati because the Steelers don't believe they must max-protect against the Bengals. Miller has 16 receptions, one touchdown.

*TE Sean McHugh will play fullback because of the sprained ankle to starter Carey Davis, the only true fullback on the team.

*NT Scott Paxson's days on the 53-man roster are numbered. If NT Casey Hampton is healthy, Paxson likely will go back on the practice squad.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Bengals:

The Bengals are 0-6, and the only thing that could make it worse is for the club to get bad news on starting quarterback Carson Palmer.

Palmer on Thursday said he heard some things he wasn't expecting on Monday when a New York doctor examined his inflamed elbow, and said that he's continuing to get more medical opinions before deciding whether to play again this season.

The Bengals quarterback, wearing a brace on his right arm, initially told reporters that he had nothing new to report regarding the elbow.

He was then asked if Dr. David Altchek, who examined the elbow on Monday in New York, reiterated what other doctors told Palmer.

"No," Palmer said. "I found out some information that I wasn't expecting. I'm just trying to get as many opinions as I can."

He declined to elaborate. Altchek's office declined to comment and referred all questions to the Bengals public relations department.

Palmer said he wants to get more information on the elbow before he discusses his 2008 plans with the media.

"Like I said, I haven't made up my mind on anything: Whether I'm going to play, not going to play, have surgery, not going to have surgery," Palmer said. "I'm still waiting on more opinions."

Palmer said he wasn't discouraged, "just anxious."

Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his third start in four weeks Sunday at home against the Steelers. Jordan Palmer, Carson's younger brother, will be the No. 2 quarterback.

PREDICTION: Steelers, 27-13

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