Notebook: Locker room far from tense

<b> PITTSBURGH - </b> They were favored to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, but instead the Steelers are 5-8 and need a series of miracles to make the playoffs. <br><br> Is there a collective gnashing of teeth in a tense locker room?

Far from it. Over in "Kicker Corner", where Josh Miller, Jeff Reed and Mike Schneck reside, the tape wads, soccer balls and dodge balls fly continually. So does the laughter. It's a gay old time, except for one Chukky Okobi.

Tired of being hit by balls, the back-up center decided to clean up Kicker Corner the other day. Okobi went on a rampage, swore he'd smoke out the evildoers, but, alas, was turned away. "These guys like to play games," Okobi said after his failed attack. "They have to learn to play the right way."

And so Okobi plots his revenge.

"All's fair in love and war," he promises.

A positive atmosphere? That's the way the new guys see it. Apparently, losing's not the end-all they'd feared. Clint Kriewaldt spent four seasons in Detroit, where the Lions went 2-14 and 3-13 the last two years. He appreciates the differences here in Pittsburgh.

"Two years ago in Detroit, when we had the losing season, I couldn't really see guys giving up. The team seemed to be upbeat," Kriewaldt said. "But last year I did notice guys quitting. I noticed a lot of guys just quit. They gave up with three games left. They knew we weren't going anywhere. I don't get that kind of feeling at all here. To me, it's the same feeling we've had in here the whole year. We're still going to fight and try to win games."

Would another losing season sour these Steelers?

"I don't think, the way Coach (Bill) Cowher is, he would ever let our team get like that," Kriewaldt said. "You can tell the kind of guy that he is. He would never let that happen. It's two totally different situations, I think. But I can really tell you that the attitude is nothing like it was in Detroit."

Than again, there wasn't a Kicker Corner in Detroit.

Jerome Bettis (quad) missed his second consecutive practice Thursday but remains probable for Sunday's game in New York against the Jets. Bettis was the only player to miss practice this week for the Steelers.

The Jets, on the other hand, placed defensive end John Abraham on injured reserve with a groin injury. He's the second Jets player to go on injured reserve this week. The Jets had placed kick returner Jonathan Carter on injured reserve Monday after he sustained a knee injury during last Sunday's loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Carter was leading the AFC and was second in the NFL with a kickoff return average of 28.7 yards. Abraham, who has struggled with the groin injury all season, had six sacks in five starts at right defensive end. He'd recorded 23 sacks combined in the 2001-02 seasons.

Kriewaldt on his former coach with the Lions, Bobby Ross, becoming the coach at Army: "I thought the guy was burned out when he left the Lions. That was the reason why he left. You could see why. He puts so much time in. He'd be there until the wee hours of the morning and then he'd be the first one there. I don't know when he ever slept. I liked him. Of course I'm going to say that since he brought me into the league. I can't say anything bad about him. He's a good coach, but I just think he was a little too burned out at the end. He was trying to find any which way to get us to that next level, and I think it put him over the top."

Plaxico Burress on being the player the Steelers chose in the 2000 draft instead of Jets quarterback Chad Pennington: "Chad's a good guy, a good quarterback and he's going to be a star. As far as me being here and him being up there, that's how things work. I really didn't think I'd be here but things happened and I ended up here."

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