Notebook: Porter won't play, What About Bettis ?

<b> PITTSBURGH - </b> Bill Cowher mangled another old saying Wednesday, but Joey Porter got the message: The Steelers' outside linebacker and best defensive player won't suit up Sunday in Kansas City. <br><br>"I downgraded Joey against his wishes," Cowher said after practice. "After talking with Dr. (Jim) Bradley last night, there is still a very small degree of risk."

Cowher explained that the gunshot wounds on Porter's left buttock and upper right thigh are healing, but the tissue ripped apart by the 9mm slug needs more time to heal "in case of a direct hit," Cowher said.

"Obviously, he's working and running and he's getting a little ornery. That's a good sign that he's getting ready to come back and play."

Porter was asked about "his wishes" and being "a little ornery" in the locker room, when Cowher walked past him and the group of reporters and said "judge, jury and verdict."

Maybe "judge, jury and executioner" was the phrase he wanted. Cowher was certainly Porter's executioner this week.

"He's in control, probably for my best interests," Porter said. "Let things heal all the way. He's the head man. He makes all the decisions."

Initially, Cowher put a 2-8 week recovery range on Porter.

"In all honesty, it barely is Week 2," Porter said. "So if something like that were to happen, it'd probably set me back another two or three weeks, which at this point in time, going into Week 2, why risk it?"

Porter was asked if he might return to practice next week.

"It's still his control," Porter said of Cowher. "You can't argue with the head man. It's a dictatorship. This might be a democracy but it's a dictatorship.

"Whenever you feel you can go out and play a little bit, you're disappointed but he's always looking out for your best interests. It's definitely coming from the doctors. Like I said, it's Week 2. Why take a chance this early of another setback?"

Running back Jerome Bettis missed his second practice this week with a groin injury that put his status at 'questionable' for Sunday. But Cowher didn't take that as a bad sign.

"I still have another day," Cowher said. "Jerome ran really well (off the field) today. The only thing that might prevent him from playing is seeing how he is (Friday). But I'm very, very encouraged by the last few days."

First-round draft pick Troy Polamalu saw extensive action at safety last Sunday because the Steelers used their nickel alignment almost exclusively on passing downs, but Polamalu didn't have anything to show for it. He had no tackles, assists or passes defensed.

"It went alright. We won," he said.

Polamalu continues to draw praise from the defensive coaches for the way he's grasping the defense, but he did talk about his mistakes.

"I made a couple of them," he said. "Chad Scott's interference call was because of me. It was a cover two and I kind of bit and came up. He actually stayed deep to cover my back when he shouldn't have."

Polamalu said play recognition wasn't a problem. Learning the complex defense has been the tough part.

"I recognize the same plays in college but you get to know a defense so well you don't think," he said. "Right now it's 'OK, he's there, he's there and he's there. Now what am I supposed to do? Where's my help coming from?'

"I'm trying to be patient. It's only the second game of the season and I'm trying to learn this defense. Some guys have been here three or four years and still don't know the defense. As a safety you've got to be very detailed. There's a lot to learn."

By Jim Wexell

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