LBers By The Score

In spite of Sunday's loss to the Ravens, and a monumental defensive collapse, Mike Prisuta still believes in the Steelers' roll call of linebackers.

Larry Foote saw it coming.

As one of the lone veteran linebackers left fully functional in the days leading up to last Sunday's rematch with the Ravens, Foote surveyed a scene that included the likes of James Harrison, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley all managing only limited participation in practice and went all Kevin Bacon on the media.

"The Steelers have been doing it for years, bringing quality guys in here that can play," Foote said.

He might as well have said, "Remain calm, all is well."

In the end, it was.

The Steelers didn't win the game, but the linebacker conglomerate nonetheless held up.

Harrison and Jason Worilds started outside, and Lawrence Timmons and Foote started inside. And as the game progressed Worilds became a third-down guy at times, Timmons moved back outside at times and Steven Sylvester played some significant snaps inside.

Whatever it takes.

And through it all Ray Rice was just a guy.

The plan this Sunday will be to keep Cedric Benson from beating the Steelers.

And as important a task as that will obviously be, it suddenly seems less critical that Farrior and Woodley are available to help make it happen.

The Bengals run the ball on first down approximately 60 percent of the time. They like to pound Benson and counter with Bernard Scott's quickness and keep rookie QB Andy Dalton ahead of the chains.

If they can do that, they can do some damage.

But if the Steelers can do their thing against the run as well as they did against Baltimore, they'll have a great opportunity to make Dalton just another rookie QB overwhelmed by a Dick LeBeau defense, as opposed to the NFL's Flavor of the Week.

The Ravens game got away from the Steelers, on offense, on special teams and finally on defense, in the last two-and-a-half minutes. But if all else remains equal at Paul Brown Stadium, the last two-and-a-half minutes shouldn't matter.

It helped against Baltimore that Harrison went all Lawrence Taylor on Joe Flacco.

"Thank God ‘Deebo' got back," Foote said. "That made us look like we knew what we were doing, I'll tell you that.

"I can say I'm used to it, but I didn't expect it just because he had the long layoff. I thought maybe he'd get a sack, two at the most, but not three and a caused fumble. There should have been a whole bunch of holding penalties, too.

"But our linebackers coach (Keith Butler) does a great job filling guys in there. Even today, everybody was mixing around, playing different spots and getting ready for every situation."

The situation this Sunday is the Steelers need to bounce back with authority if they have any hope of maintaining whatever slim AFC North title hopes they're still clinging to, and if they want to avoid making securing a wild card spot in the playoffs begin to look like an uphill proposition.

"This is a check-our-temperature (game), see what we're made of," Foote said. "Coming off an emotional loss like that, going into a hostile place with a team that's hot as a firecracker.

"We're going to see what we're made of; it's a must-win right before the bye week. Guys gotta know that we need this."

Foote was asked how the Steelers usually fare amid such circumstances.

"We're doing well so far," he said.

This time I'm willing to take him at his word.

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