Tunch talks Bengals, and about the Steelers OL
Tunch Ilkin: Well you know George, interdivisional games have that flavor to them and it really doesn't matter if you're ten and 0 or 0 and ten when the rivalry games bring out the best in the both teams involved and also bring out that nastiness. When you take in effect that Marvin Lewis will be coaching his first game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers as a head coach for the Cincinnati Bengals and what he's trying to establish right now in Cincinnati you know, one of the things, his biggest task at hand is to start establishing good habits. And get those guys thinking and expecting to win. So they're 0 and 2, and they're a football team that is looking for an identity with their new coach. But it's still going to be a tough hard-fought game.
George: Tunch, lets take a gander at the Bengals offense, and we can start with a wide receiver by the name of Chad Johnson, who's really putting up some big numbers lately for them.
Tunch: You can be lulled to sleep and not really quite realize how quick he really is. He's physical; he runs terrific routes; he's got great hands; he's really turned into a top receiver. As a matter of fact, I was talking to Steeler free safety Brent Alexander and I asked Brent about him…...and he said he reminds Brent a lot of Jimmy Smith of Jacksonville; he plays that way….he'll go up and get the ball…..he's very athletic, very smooth.
On the other side, Peter Warrick, ….and we all know about the great college career he had. I think Peter is the kind of guy that has been very inconsistent. He has big play capabilities; he's very elusive; he's great with the ball in his hands….they'll use him a lot in reverses; they'll line him up at the slot and they'll run him in kind of a Statue of Liberty type play. George, for whatever reason, at times he looks like a top-notch receiver out there…..and at times, he just flat out disappears.
And of course, they have Corey Dillon at running back. Corey's a great running back, I mean anyone would give a king's ransom to have Corey Dillon on their team. But Corey's got a hyper extended knee, and even before that he didn't play well against Denver. Denver did a pretty good job week one shutting down Corey Dillon…got dinged up versus Oakland, came back into the game. It'll be interesting to see how effective he is. He's a gamer, you know, no matter what they say about him possibly not playing. He's a guy that, if he can't…Kimo Von Oelhoffen who played with him when Kimo was at Cincinnati….Kimo says he has the heart of a lion.
At quarterback of course they have John Kitna. And George, Kitna's the kind of guy that is very streaky. And you'll watch him and you'll say Woo Woo….and then he'll break your heart if you're a Bengal's fan 'cause he'll make the most ill-advised throws…and I almost think that if he gets hot, that's to his detriment because he thinks he can do anything and so he'll throw up some lollipops…and he's one of those guys, and I know him from his days at Seattle, that he used to frustrate the heck out of Mike Holmgren. And that's why Mike allowed him to move on down the road to Cincinnati. He's a guy that we refer to as "coach killers" 'cause he just looks great. He looks great, he looks great….and then last week again, versus the Raiders, and with the game on the line, he throws a pick to Phil Buchanon for a touchdown going the other way. You know, he killed them. He was in a position to put the game away, and he just didn't.
Against Denver, he was scrambling around, and he was trying to make that play happen …and he tries to drop the ball off to his running back …does a two handed push-back, right into the arms of a Bronco linebacker. The other thing I noticed versus Denver, is Kitna...he's a rhythm quarterback; he likes to get rid of the ball on his third or fifth step. Now, against Denver, I think he had about five passes blocked because it seemed like the Denver defensive line…they knew they weren't going to get to him on the quick drop stuff so they immediately tried to shut down those passing lanes and get their hands up and get 'em in on the ball.
George: If Dillon is limited or can't play - serious drop off?
Tunch: Absolutely. I mean, whenever you're missing a Cory Dillon, that's got to hurt. So I think that it will really change, kind of, the whole philosophy of the entire offense. If the Bengals have to rely on the arm of John Kitna to win this football game, then it's going to be a long day for the Bengals.
George: Quick comment about the Bengals offensive line, which has had it's problems in the past. Is it any better?
Tunch: It is a little bit better…..you know, Willie Anderson, at right tackle, has done a nice job….Levi Jones at left tackle….they got that rookie from Iowa starting at left guard. Steinbach, you know, you wouldn't look at their offensive line and say they're horrible but by the same token you wouldn't look at them and say this is a top notch line. They still seem to be having some communication breakdowns. When the Denver Broncos run some twists and stunts, they looked like there was always a guy coming free….sometimes you get two guys jumping up on one and one guy come free. They do a lot of that, so they're not bad versus the run. They'll come off the ball; they're maulers. I think they're a decent offensive line.
George: But, this is a game where the Steeler defense has a chance to get after that offensive line?
Tunch: Well yeah. If I'm defense coordinator Tim Lewis….I'm definitely bringing the guy some. I'm coming after him. I think that, especially Casey Hampton, I think could have a big game because their center is a guy, Goff, who is not a natural center. He's more of a guard…..doesn't look very natural at the position…..so I think Casey Hampton has a big day. I think you could take advantage of a rookie left guard with the many types of blitzes that the Steelers run…..so you will see the Steelers getting after John Kitna.
George: Offensive line play leads us into our poster's question today….and this comes from a poster named Aeryck. I talked about the Steelers offensive line and specifically the center position where Jeff Hartings has been having some problems with that knee. Is Chukky Okobi possibly going to work his way into a starting role with this club? What do you think his chances are?
Tunch: Well, I think the only way that's going to happen is if Jeff Hartings is really hurt and if his play really suffers because of that sore knee. I don't expect that to happen. I think Chukky is a guy who has the potential to be a terrific center…..is kind of like a lot of young offensive linemen. He's kind of biding his time. I don't mean he's complacent; he wants to get out in the field. But that's what he's got to do. This very well could be Jeff Hartings' last year ….and then of course next year Chukky would be coming in at starting center. Now, if Jeff Hartings' knee really starts giving him trouble and he can't push off, then you might see a switch…..but I don't think before that.
George: Our Insiders look at Steeler football, X and O's, with Tunch Ilkin - looking at the Cincinnati offense. And we'll look at the defense tomorrow. I'm George Von Benko.