Notebook: Steelers saddened by loss

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> The news surprised Alan Faneca, but he told reporters all he could about Justin Strzelczyk, who was killed in a car crash outside his hometown of Buffalo, New York.<br><br> After reporters left, Faneca slumped in his chair and buried his head in his hands.<br><br> Details of Strzelczyk's death were sketchy after Thursday's practice, but the former Steelers offensive lineman (1990-99) was remembered fondly.<br><br>

"He was a very, very good guy," said team chairman Dan Rooney. "He was a good player who added to the whole team activity by playing the guitar and getting around all the time. On the field, he carried his weight. We'll miss him."

Strzelczyk's musical ability was put on display during a team and fan banquet in Dublin, Ireland in 1997 when the Steelers traveled overseas for an exhibition game.

Known as "Jugs", Strzelczyk picked up a banjo and performed several songs. He was particularly fond of Neil Young.

Rooney was asked about Strzelczyk's reputation for being "somewhat off-center."

"That's all right," Rooney said with a smile.

"He was a free spirit. He did things his way," said Jerome Bettis. "He was a little different in the way he did things but that was him. You understood that. He was a great guy. It's a tragedy what happened."

Bettis was asked if he had a favorite Strzelczyk story.

"No real favorite ones," he said. "In the game he used to kind of throw up and just kind of wipe his hands. And he'd do all kind of sick stuff and you'd say, 'Aw man.' He'd spit on himself and do all kind of stuff. Half of it was to throw defensive guys off, but half of it, I think, (was) he kind of liked it. He was a great guy."

Said Faneca: "There wasn't anything that sticks out in my mind besides Jugs being himself. He was a great player and an even better guy in the locker room. I came in with a great group of guys who put me on the path, and he was one of them."


Kendrell Bell practiced Thursday, but did not participate in the team portion of practice. The inside linebacker, who's missed the first three games of the season, is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"It was significant progress," said Steelers coach Bill Cowher. "We'll see how he feels (Friday). He's doing a little bit more each day and hopefully he'll get to the point he's comfortable and we can get him back out there playing."

Would he jump right back into his starting position?

"We'll deal with that when it happens," Cowher said.

Back-up safety Mike Logan (hamstring) also practiced and remains questionable. Defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen left practice with a hip flexor injury. He's probable for the game.

Changes to the Bengals' injury list: Defensive back Kevin Kaesviharn is questionable with a back injury; safety Rogers Beckett was upgraded from questionable to probable; defensive tackle Tony Williams is probable with a tooth.

Among the starters previously listed as questionable for the Bengals, wide receiver Peter Warrick (shin) and left tackle Levi Jones missed Thursday's practice.


Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for posting a conference-high 346 receiving yards in three games. He's also tied for the conference lead in receptions (22) as the Steelers jumped out to a 2-1 start.

Despite facing two defenses in the NFL's top 10 and playing in heavy rain at Miami last Sunday, Ward has six catches of 20 yards or more, tying him for second-most in the NFL.

Ward is the first Steelers wide receiver to receive a monthly distinction since the award's inception in 1986.

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