Steelers say Eddie George far from finished

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> The last time the Steelers tackled Eddie George, he lost two yards, the ball, the lead and his mind. <br><br> George left the game with a concussion after gaining only 33 yards on 15 carries for the Tennessee Titans, who defeated the Steelers, 34-31, in the playoffs. <br><br>It gave George 868 yards on 281 carries for a puny average of 3.1 yards per carry in his career against the Steelers.

In 14 games, George has but one 100-yard game against the Steelers, who defensed him well even when he had the step he's since lost.

Oops.

That's something no one in the Steelers' locker room would corroborate.

"I'm going to tell you as an honest man, he hasn't," said strong safety Mike Logan. "That's all I'll tell you is look at the tape."

Last week, George gained 100 yards on 29 carries in the Titans' 27-12 win over the New Orleans Saints.

"People were coming up and bouncing off and he was going on forever," Logan said. "The last couple of seasons he's had some injuries, but looking at the tape he's in rare form now." Well, George's last three carries last Sunday netted 32 yards, meaning his first 26 got him 68 yards, or an average of 2.6 yards per carry. ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli called the 100-yard game "an aberration." A Tennessee columnist was even more critical.

"Permit Eddie George to gloat if he wants," wrote David Climer of The Tennessean. "After running for 100 yards, he looked down his nose at those of us who have said he is no longer the back he once was. Then again, it was only his sixth 100-yard game in the last 39 games, dating back to the 2000 season."

So, after 115 consecutive starts since entering the league in 1996, and after gaining 9,166 yards to rank 18th in NFL history, are we to believe George is over the hill?

Of course, the Steelers say no.

"He's still running hard," said linebacker Joey Porter. "You could see it in the playoff game. He started out with a couple good runs. Unfortunately (Casey) Hampton got a good hit on him and put him out. But he was starting to run pretty good in the game, so we have to focus on stopping the run and try to contain (quarterback Steve) McNair as much as we can and not let him make big plays."

In the two teams' playoff meeting last January, George carried 14 times in the first half for 35 yards. On the first play of the second half, Hampton, the Steelers' nose tackle, leveled George behind the line of scrimmage and he fumbled. On the next play, Amos Zereoue ripped off a 31-yard touchdown run and the Steelers took a 20-14 lead. But without a concussed George, the Titans rallied and won in overtime.

George returned the next week - he's never missed an NFL game - and carried 15 times for 67 yards in the AFC Championship Game loss to the Oakland Raiders.

This year, George has 188 yards on 64 carries (2.9 avg.). The 100-yard game obviously helped those statistics, and it also makes sure the Steelers will take him seriously, in spite of the whispers that say he's done.

"I haven't heard none of those," said defensive end Aaron Smith. "He looks good, looks like the same Eddie George to me. He's strong, fast. I don't see any difference, to be honest with you. He looks the same to me.

"The key on Eddie is to get a whole bunch of guys to him. You can't leave one person to tackle Eddie. Eddie's so big and strong, you have to get a bunch of guys to him. That's the only way you're going to stop him."

Jim Wexell
SteelCitySports.com

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