Steelers Sign Flowers

<b>PITTSBURGH – </b>After saying early in the week that the Steelers would not sign another linebacker, Coach Bill Cowher changed his mind and signed former No. 1 draft pick Erik Flowers off waivers Wednesday and released outside linebacker James Harrison.

Flowers, a 6-foot-4, 273-pound linebacker from Arizona State, was released by Houston after spending the entire 2002 season with the expansion Texans. He played in 14 games and made one solo tackle.

Flowers came out of college as a defensive end and was the 26th pick of the 2000 draft by the Buffalo Bills, where he played in 31 games in two years and made five starts, all in 2001. He made 60 tackles with the Bills, including 31 solo stops and four sacks.

It really wasn't an outlandish statement, the one Brian Billick made to 700 fans at the Baltimore Ravens Rally for Courage House Kids a few weeks ago, but the coach of the Baltimore Ravens was asked about it during a conference call Wednesday with Pittsburgh reporters.

Billick, though, wasn't pleased about the quote that had been attributed to him on August 14. The night before, Billick supposedly told Ravens fans, "I'm excited for Pittsburgh to have to come back here the last game on a Sunday night and lose the [AFC North] to us."

Yesterday, Billick denied saying it.

"I am kind of interested in that," Billick said. "I can say enough stupid sh-- on my own. I don't need for you guys to make stuff up. I never said it. It was not presented properly. I don't know what cousin's, brother's, aunt's, father's girlfriend thought they heard, but it was not said." Billick was asked to set the record straight.

"Are we going to get this relayed properly? Because when I see my name next to something that was not said by somebody that was not here, that concerns me a little bit," he said. "I'm going to rely on you guys to be a little more professional than what I saw earlier.

"The comment I made was: The league had done a great job with trying to get teams to finish their seasons with a divisional foe, so it has the added importance. … I am thrilled that we get to finish the regular season with what is identified as the best team in the AFC North. I can't think of a better challenge, for how great would it be with the Pittsburgh Steelers coming in here and having the AFC North crown on the line or a playoff spot on the line and we are able to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to do that. That is exactly what was said and I will be very interested in seeing how you all relate it this time."

Billick might also be interested to see his original quote posted on his own team's web site at§ion=press&content_id=2587.

Chad Scott started it by wearing a big, black 'X' on his jersey throughout much of training camp. Then on Monday, Jerome Bettis wore No. 45 in tribute to the released Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala. Yesterday, Dewayne Washington wore No. 22 in tribute to Hank Poteat. Apparently, the only player who can't change his number is second-round pick Alonzo Jackson, who's desperately trying to dump his number 95.

As the Steelers did to Joey Porter when he was a rookie, Jackson was given Greg Lloyd's old number, and Jackson is balking.

"Joey got out of it and I hope to," said Jackson. "I'm still looking for a last-minute maneuver, but if not I'll take 95. It's a good-looking number, so I'll see what I can do then."

As a linebacker, Jackson can wear numbers in the 50s or 90s. Prior to the release of Harrison, the only openings were 90 and 95, and Jackson doesn't like 90.

He hoped Chukky Okobi (56) or Mike Schneck (54) would trade their numbers, but Okobi has worn his number for eight years going back to college and high school and won't budge. Schneck was intimidated by a veteran, but held his ground.

"(Jason) Gildon came over and thought he could just walk all over the specialists, so you know we had to stand up for ourselves," said Schneck, who was asked if Jackson had offered any money for the number.

"An offer was made but it was not adequate," Schneck said. "There are family members involved. They wear that jersey. I need enough to make it worth my while and to show he really wants it."

How much is enough?

"Put it this way: He needed to multiply his number by 10," Schneck said. "I need a lot. And there's also some pride involved. They looked at me because I'm just a long-snapper."

Jim Wexell

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