Notebook: Hampton hunting prey

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b> Casey Hampton is going home to Texas and it doesn't get any bigger than that.<br><br>"Oh, it'll be big," said Hampton, a native of Galveston. "I'm trying to get 50 tickets."

His family and friends want to watch the 328-pound nose tackle continue his fine season. Hampton is the Steelers' anchor against the run, has put plenty of pressure on quarterbacks and is also dropping more frequently into coverage.

And who knows? With Vinny Testaverde playing quarterback today, Big Case could pick off a pass before he sacks a quarterback this season.

"Now that would be out of control," said linebacker James Farrior. "We'd probably get a 15-yard unsportsmanlike just for acting crazy, because if he gets a pick it'll be over."

An interception by a nose tackle in a zone-blitz scheme isn't really a long shot, particularly with Hampton dropping more frequently each week. Here's a smattering of predictions on whether Hampton will intercept a pass or sack a quarterback first:

"A sack, no question," said back-up nose tackle Chris Hoke. "He's dropping but he's gotten a lot of good pressure the past couple weeks. He beat a double team to hit the quarterback last week. But he is dropping quite a bit. One of these days a quarterback's going to be pressured, not look, and, boom, right to Case."

"Oh, man. I want to see him get a pick," said Farrior. "I know he can get sacks. I want to see how good his hands are. He's always getting on us about the picks we drop. I want to see if he can catch one."

"We'll take one of each," said coordinator Dick LeBeau. "Casey likes to drop and he really does a good job for a big man. He runs as well as any big man in the league. That's evidenced by the way he runs down sweeps. He makes tackles way up on the sidelines. He's always a good solid inside pressure guy. They almost have to double-team him because it's hard to keep him out of there with one guy. He's strong and quick and he's a force that really helps us."

"I'm going to get a sack," said Hampton. "It's about time for me to get one. I've missed like four or five of them this year. I want to get sacks. They've got me in the nickel and I don't have one. That's frustrating."

Could he catch a pass?

"Oh, yeah, I've got great hands," he said. "Back in the day I was an athlete. I could get my hands on the ball and I could do something with it, too. I can switch hands and everything. I've got ball skills."

A WISE MAN

Farrior was asked for the best bit of wisdom he's heard from LeBeau.

"We asked him why he's so laid back and so calm," Farrior said. "He's not like other coaches at times. He doesn't really get all up in your face and he's not a rah-rah guy. One day he told us, 'At this point, I'm fine with where I am in my life right now. I don't worry about the small stuff anymore.' It's probably one of the greatest things I've heard. 'I'm fine with my life right now.'"

SLIMMED DOWN

After last Sunday's win over the Cleveland Browns, Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was asked how much he's cut out of the offense to accommodate rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"Probably 25, 50 percent, maybe," he said. "For him, maybe a little bit less than a veteran. It's not much, maybe 25 percent."

Whisenhunt didn't elaborate, but wide receiver Hines Ward did:

"With Tommy (Maddox), we can go to the hurry-up and we can go to our hurry-up mode where it's really not hurry-up but it's a no-huddle situation. And right now, we've practiced it, but I don't think Ben's ready for that yet. We don't have to use it when we have a dominant running game so when we're running the ball well, there are certain things that you don't have to use."

INJURY UPDATE

With the exception of quarterback Maddox and linebacker Kendrell Bell, who've been shelved most of the season, the Steelers are healthy heading to Dallas. The Cowboys have been healthy everywhere but in their secondary.

Injured safety Darren Woodson has been ably replaced by Tony Dixon, but injured cornerback Pete Hunter was replaced by Bruce Thornton, who tore his ACL. Rookie Jacques Reeves, the Cowboys round 7-C draft pick, replaced Thornton last week, but today Reeves may split time with recently acquired veteran Tyrone Williams.

QUOTABLE

A reporter couldn't get much out of Cowboys coach Bill Parcells during the final moments of a conference call this week, but it was fun hearing him try.

Reporter: If someone said the punishment for Quincy Carter was excessive, how would you respond?

Parcells: I would say they don't know the situation.

Reporter: Would you care to embellish?

Parcells: Yes. I feel like I was the victim.

Reporter: You and the team?

Parcells: Yes. I had 18 months invested in him.

Reporter: How is Antonio Bryant playing?

Parcells: He is doing pretty well.

Reporter: How is his health?

Parcells: He is OK.

Reporter: How are you two getting along?

Parcells: We are doing fine.

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