Notebook: Blitzburgh II

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> Priority No. 1 for the Steelers tonight in Jacksonville is stopping Fred Taylor - always has been, always will be.<br><br> The second phase will be the easy part: Getting to quarterback Byron Leftwich.

You may remember Leftwich as the Marshall quarterback who had to be carried by teammates after pass plays while he played his final college season with a broken leg.

Actually, Leftwich hasn't gained much mobility since then. He's been sacked 19 times in 9 games. Personnel men call Leftwich immobile and soft, meaning it could be a big night for Steelers blind-side linebacker Joey Porter, who'll be going against the weak link of the Jaguars' offensive line - replacement left tackle Ephraim Salaam.

"If we take the run away, then go after the quarterback all day and pressure him into making bad throws, I feel we have a good chance to come out on top," said Porter.

The Steelers lead the NFL with 36 sacks. Tied for second with 34 are New England and Philadelphia. All three teams are 10-1.

Porter, who has seven sacks to trail team leader Aaron Smith by one, was asked if the Steelers' defense has a swagger.

"The confidence level is there," Porter said. "It was to the point where we'd get defensive calls and we'd be like, 'Why are we in that?' And 'Why do they want to do that now?' Stuff like that. "I've been around for awhile. We had those situations. But to where it is right now, just call it. You call the defense and we're going to play it. It doesn't matter what you call. We have the confidence to get the job done regardless. And this is one of those teams that is so unselfish. It doesn't matter who gets the sacks, the tackles, the interceptions, whatever, it makes us play better as a team. When you have a truly unselfish defense, it makes everybody better."

Porter said the change happened the day Dick LeBeau was re-hired.

"You've got to know coach LeBeau and what kind of coach he is. I mean, he comes in and opens up the day of the meeting and tells us that he could've been coach anywhere else and he took a pay cut to come here. And he shocked everybody by telling us it was a pleasure for him to coach us. And we're looking at him like it's a pleasure for us to have you as our coach. But that was his opening statement on the first day he introduced himself to us.

"So when you have a coach like that, that tells you, 'I have nothing else to prove in my life. I've done everything I want to do in my life. But just to let you guys know I've turned down money to be here with you guys because I've seen you guys on film and I had to be here to coach you guys.' When you hear something like that, you've got to go out and give him your all because he's truly going to put you in the best position to go out there and win a football game. And he's done that each week."


Duce Staley admitted Friday that he's still not 100 percent healthy from a hamstring injury that's kept him out of the last four games, but he's listed as probable and practiced all week, so he's expected to start tonight.

But what does that mean for Jerome Bettis, who's rushed for over 100 yards per game with a career-high workload of 122 carries in the four games?

"They're going to let him go until he's tired," said Bettis. "Probably, physically, it's going to be harder for him to be out there a consecutive number of plays just because of conditioning. I know my first game against the Eagles, every three or four plays I was on the sideline taking a knee because I was blowed. You go from virtually no carries to 30 carries a game, and I had to do it out of necessity because that was the deal.

"My tongue was falling out. I would expect they wouldn't want that to happen to him because he's been inactive four weeks."

The Steelers are expected to sit Plaxico Burress (hamstring) for a second consecutive game. Third-down back Verron Haynes (knee) was downgraded to doubtful Friday night and will likely be replaced by rookie Willie Parker.

All active players practiced for the Jaguars on Friday and defensive tackle Marcus Stroud, who'd missed two practices during the week, is expected to play.


-- Jeff Hartings on his plans for next season: "I plan on coming back right now. I'm sure that'll be a hot topic of conversation because my cap number's high."

-- Bettis on whether he feels better at this point in the season than he has in the past: "Yeah, I'm feeling better. I'm sore, make no mistake. These carries add up. They do, trust me. But no, as a whole, it is different. Although I've taken a load the last four games, it hasn't been the last 10 games. For me, it would be the fifth, sixth game of the season. I feel like it's the sixth game of the season as opposed to the 12th game of the season."

-- Hines Ward on criticism of the passing game: "It's always going to be a question of anything. Last year it was: What's wrong with the run game? I think the passing game's fine. Yes, it hasn't improved, but we know that. At the same time, we're still running the ball exceptionally well. When we needed to make some plays in the passing game, we did that."

-- Larry Foote on securing the inside linebacker position: "I just thank God for the opportunity. This is my third year. They tell you your third year will make you, will define whether you have a long career in the NFL or not. So thank God it came right on time, my chance to play."

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