Notebook : Hampton sizing up Washington

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> Ted Washington of the Oakland Raiders comes to Heinz Field with a well-earned reputation as the NFL's premier run-stuffer. Last year's stats back it up.<br><br> In the 10 games he started for New England, the Patriots allowed an average of 76.9 rushing yards per game. In the six he missed, the Patriots allowed an average of 106.3.

The numbers only enhance a reputation Washington has spent 14 years building. But Washington hasn't been to the Pro Bowl since 2001, whereas Casey Hampton of the Steelers was in the Pro Bowl last year. Shouldn't Hampton be considered the 3-4 run-stuffing nose tackle to fear in Sunday's game?

"Well, Ted's been doing it for a long time, man. He has dues," said Hampton. "He's the guy and I've got a long way to get to what he done did."

But Hampton is close to 70 pounds lighter than Washington and nine years younger. Doesn't Hampton have a point to prove?

"That's the way I look at it," he said. "I go out there every day trying to prove I'm one of the best in this league. I work hard and I try to help my team the best way I can. I just do what I do. At my position, I don't make a lot of plays and stuff but I try my best to help my team by keeping my linebackers free to help them do what they do."

Hampton reported for his fourth pro season this summer at 330 pounds and quickly settled at 327 for the duration of camp. That's about 12 pounds lighter than he was a year ago. The offensive linemen he's faced during camp all say they're ready for Washington because of Hampton.

"I don't know man," Hampton said. "Ted gets down and you can't even see the front three linemen, so I don't know. He's hard to move up in there. I don't know. I try to anchor down but Ted's a lot bigger than I am, so I think it'll be a tough task."

Listed at 365 pounds, Washington looks bigger than that to Hampton.

"Ted looks every bit of 400 pounds," he said. "He's a big man. He can still move and he can play. He knows how to use it."

After Friday's practice, Steelers coach Bill Cowher announced Tommy Maddox and Alan Faneca are the offensive captains; Joey Porter and James Farrior are the defensive captains; and Clint Kriewaldt and Chidi Iwuoma are the special-teams captains.

For Iwuoma, who captained the Cal Bear defense in college, the player's vote punctuated an emotional week. He went from worrying about making the team to being named a team captain.

"I definitely was worried about it. You never know what can happen," he said. "The mood swings real quick, but it's a good thing and I'm definitely happy."

Faneca said he'll have to warm up more quickly in order to fulfill his coin-flipping duties. Other than that, it's business as usual since he's always given his share of motivational talks anyway.

"Short and sweet and to the point," was how he described them. "No reason for BS or flowering it up a little bit. When it's time to go win a game, it's time to go win a game. Everybody should know it and not much should be said."

The mysterious case of Kendrell Bell has not been cleared up. Cowher said Bell's shoulder was fine, but that a mid-week groin injury will cause him to be a game-day decision. If Bell can't play, Larry Foote will make his fourth career start.

For the Raiders, questionable linebackers Napoleon Harris and DeLawrence Grant practiced on a limited basis this week. Strong safety Derrick Gibson was placed on injured reserve last week and will be replaced by either newly acquired Marques Anderson, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha or rookie free safety Stuart Schweigert.

Charles Woodson reported to the Raiders after camp and is expected to play in a nickel-back capacity at the least.

With explosive return men on both sides, Sunday's game could come down to special teams. Here are some comments made by the Steelers' central figures.
  • Iwuoma on whether he and Sean Morey, the Steelers' coverage gunners, will both be doubled: "Teams try to game plan and usually double the guy they think is the biggest threat, then they have the extra guy rush the punter. If you have two guys out there, and they double both of them, it takes pressure off the punter."
  • Antwaan Randle El on whether Raiders punter Shane Lechler will outkick his coverage again: "That's his thing, though, so I think they've been working on that. He's outkicked his coverage for years now."
  • Kevin Spencer on Lechler: "We've looked at that film a thousand times and I'm sure (new) coach (Joe) Avezzano has done the same thing. I'm sure they're going to do something, but you can't change the way the guy punts though. I don't know if Shane is a directional punter. I don't know if you can change that. They have to do something but we'll just react. And whatever they do, it might be something he's not used to doing. That's what happened last year. He tried to change in the game last year and he left one out there for us and we got it."
  • Spencer on Raiders rookie returner Carlos Francis, the fastest player (4.31) at the last Indianapolis combine: "He stood out in kickoff return versus St. Louis. It was very scary. He popped a couple returns. I don't know who we'll see. (Phillip) Buchanon, in my opinion, is a Pro Bowl-caliber guy but he put a couple on the ground in preseason. When he gets the ball in his hands he's scary. They, as always, have some weapons."

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