Losing Hampton hurts

<b>IRVING, Texas -</b> The euphoria of a big 24-20 win over Dallas was killed by the news that nose tackle Casey Hampton is likely out for the season after tearing up his knee.

To a man, the players in the locker room didn't know Hampton was done until being told by reporters, who had just gotten the news from head coach Bill Cowher.

"Oh man, that's a big loss," said cornerback Deshea Townsend. "Casey's done for the year? He really said that?"

Townsend had just given me the company line about losing fellow corner Chad Scott when he realized what I'd said about losing both Scott and Hampton.

His reply was about how the rest of the guys would have to pick up their game and work on their technique, blah, blah, blah.

Losing Hampton is huge for the Steelers. He's the rock on which the defense is built. We see what happens to the run defense every time they take him off the field in the dime and nickel defense, something the Cowboys exploited a great deal.

At least the Steelers have two weeks to decide what their move will be to replace Hampton. The options? Plug Chris Hoke into his spot. Slide Kimo von Oelhoffen over and move Travis Kirshke or Brett Keisel into the starting lineup. Or put Hampton out there in a wheelchair (hey, that might be the most effective thing).

  • On the plus side, we did get to see Ben Roethlisberger's first big comeback. Actually, it was his second fourth quarter come-from-behind victory, since he led the Steelers back against Cincinnati.

    But nobody thought the Steelers had a chance after going down 20-10 in the second half against the Cowboys - most notably, the Cowboys fans.

    After Dallas scored to go up 20-10, the Texas Stadium crowd that wasn't wearing black and gold - about half - started chanting "the Steelers suck."

    That chant lasted about two minutes until they realized their defense had no shot at stopping the Steelers.

    And by the end of the game that chant had changed to "Testaverde sucks."

  • The biggest thing Roethlisberger did Sunday was go through his progressions. On his TD throw to Jerame Tuman, Tuman was the third or fourth read. The kid's learning fast.

    Imagine how good he'll be when he figures this game out.

  • Troy Polamalu was all over the field Sunday once again. Other than drawing a holding penalty on Hines Ward in the fourth quarter, did anyone notice the great Roy Williams?

    I'm not saying Williams isn't a good player, but he had two solo tackles and an assist, while Polamalu had seven solos and two pass defenses, including one that saved a touchdown in the second quarter.

    But Williams will be in the Pro Bowl this season. Polomalu? He'll be playing in the playoffs.

  • Did I mention playoffs? Yep. You can start your Festivus plans now. The Steelers need to go 5-5 the rest of the way to get there. What they do after that depends on how well they replace Hampton.

  • A healthy Kendrell Bell would help soften the blow of losing Hampton to a certain extent. Then again, I'm not holding my breath on that one.

  • The Steelers were picking on Dallas corner Terrance Newman like he was the second coming of Scott. Newman might some day be a very good player, but he's not there yet.

  • You want a clue about how much Hampton means to the Steelers' defense, take a look at how Ritchie Anderson was gouging the nickel and dime defenses on draw plays.

    The Cowboys had linemen coming free to block James Farrior and Larry Foote and Anderson was 15 yards down the field before anyone touched him.

  • An injury to Duce Staley would kill this team. Did you see Jerome Bettis trying to hit the same holes Staley was getting five yards a pop going through? Pathetic.

    And don't give me the Verron Haynes and Willie Parker crap? Staley is proving that he's a special back. He runs with power, has some wiggle and is one tough mofo. He's everything Bettis was in his prime except defensive backs don't fear him coming through the hole like they did Bettis.

  • Ricardo Colcough had to take an IV at halftime because of cramping. He told me it was the first time he'd ever had to do so. Better hydrate a little better, Rico.

  • Eddie George is every bit as washed up as Bettis. He just doesn't have anyone in front of him who can get him down to the 1 so he can punch in the TD.

  • Roethlisberger is the kind of player who comes around once in a lifetime. Enjoy it while you can Steelers fans.

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