And keep your hands to youself

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> NFL experts will point to last year's AFC Championship game in which the New England's cornerbacks manhandled Indianapolis' wide receivers and say the Colts will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the league's decision to crack down on illegal contact down the field.<br><br> But the Steelers feel pretty good about it as well as they head into their regular season opener Sunday against the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field.

With Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randle El as their top three receivers, the Steelers boast a receiving corps as good as any in the NFL. And if opposing defensive backs aren't permitted to maul them farther than five yards past the line of scrimmage, they're going to be all the more effective.

"It's really going to open things up for us," said Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress. "We don't feel like anybody can cover us one-on-one - most of the time we're going to win that battle. And if they can't hold you and that stuff, that's even more true." The preseason totals would seem to back that up. In four games, opposing defenses were called for illegal contact downfield six times and pass interference twice. The Steelers, meanwhile, were called for illegal contact four times.

Each illegal contact call results in a five-yard penalty and automatic first down for the offense, while a pass interference penalty is a spot foul, meaning the ball is placed where the infraction took place.

The 6-5, 228-pound Burress might be the biggest beneficiary of the crackdown. Given his size advantage over every defensive back he faces, it will be very difficult for cornerbacks to cover him without clutching and grabbing.

But it could also benefit Ward, who runs a lot of intermediate routes and also employs a very physical style of play. Because they could not run the ball effectively last season, more teams played cover-2 defense - one that keeps both safeties deep to force offenses to throw underneath - against the Steelers. But with the addition of running back Duce Staley and the new enforcement of rules, corners will be forced to give the Steelers' receivers more of a cushion or face the consequences.

Quarterback Tommy Maddox feels the Steelers can really benefit - if NFL officials continue to call it as aggressively as they did in the preseason.

"That's always the thing, they usually call it pretty tight in the preseason and as the regular season comes, they go back to the way they used to call it," Maddox said. "We'll just have to wait and see how they call it. Definitely if they call it the way they did in the preseason, it puts the DBs in a tough spot."

But the illegal contact penalty, just like pass interference, is largely a judgment call on the part of officials. As such, Steelers head coach Bill Cowher expects the call to be made differently in every game.

"A lot of times, it's going to depend on what crew you get and how they call the game," Cowher said. "A lot of times they get mandates during the course of the season that the league wants to come down on, whether it be illegal contact or holding. You've got to get a feel for the game. I always relate it to the NBA. If they're going to call hand checks, then you can't hand check. Some people call it more than others. It depends on what crew you have and you have to get a feel for it."

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