Notebook: The glove comes off

<b>PITTSBURGH - </b>Ben Roethlisberger has lost a glove.<br><br> That's right. The city can relax after the Pittsburgh Steelers' rookie quarterback announced Wednesday he will "try to go this week without it."

And then Roethlisberger practiced without the glove on his right hand.

The glove has been a cause celeb among Steelers fans since Roethlisberger first donned it against the Washington Redskins.

The Steelers' previous quarterback, Tommy Maddox, never wore a glove on his passing hand, but Roethlisberger has and it's the reason many believe his passer rating dropped from 104 in his first seven starts to 86.8 in his last seven.

Roethlisberger said after the Jets game, a game in which he struggled with a 57.8 rating, that he'd worn it in five pro games. He said his problem with the glove against the Jets was that he didn't practice with it throughout the week, since the weather here was unseasonably warm.

Roethlisberger's plan changed this week upon hearing the forecast for Sunday's AFC championship game against the New England Patriots.

"It supposedly might snow this weekend," he said. "If it's wet, it makes it worse."

Roethlisberger began wearing a glove on his passing hand in high school and continued doing so in college.

"It helps me grip the ball better," he said. "When it's cold outside, the ball gets slippery. As everyone may not know, we use brand new balls every game and so the ball is slippery. Basically, the glove is just to help me grip the ball better. It's something I've done for awhile now and I will continue to do so."

Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon went through the same type of scrutiny when he led his team to the 1985 championship. McMahon put a glove on his passing hand in the playoffs because of the cold weather. He liked the grip so much that he wore the glove inside the New Orleans Superdome where he led the Bears to a 46-10 win over the New England Patriots.

PICKING SIDES


The Steelers lost the coin toss to start the last game and the New York Jets took the ball. The Steelers, peculiarly, chose to defend the North end zone. They did the same in overtime. The decision was peculiar because most of the problems encountered by kickers over the years have occurred while kicking into the South, or open, end zone.

Jets kicker Doug Brien missed two critical field-goal attempts kicking into the North end zone and the Steelers' Jeff Reed made both of his kicks into the South end zone. In fact, all of the points in the game were scored in the South end zone.

"It changes the whole game every game," said Reed. "It depends on the elements and the elements were in favor of going towards the open end."

Isn't it usually the other way?

"It's usually not swirling as much going towards the closed end. But like I said it's game to game. Everything was a little different last game than it has been all year because the wind was going towards their sideline."

Reed said the Steelers' coaching staff consults with him before every game. He was asked if his experience at Heinz Field gives him the edge over visiting kickers.

"Nah. He knew which way to go," Reed said of Brien. "I guess they wanted the initial kickoff to be their best kick to open the second half, so they kicked with the wind."

Why do visiting kickers have so many problems?

"I think it's just the elements. I mean I can't get used to kicking here either. My numbers look good (15 for 16 field goals) but every extra point, everything, when that wind's blowing hard it's a challenge."

New England kicker Adam Vinatieri was asked the same question yesterday in Foxboro.

"They have the same type of weather and field that we have here," Vinatieri said. "It gets cold and windy there on the water. It's hard to grow grass in January, so the field is what it is. That probably causes some of the adversity there."

Vinatieri made both of his field-goal attempts (43, 25) here on Halloween. In the 2001 AFC championship game, he made a 44-yarder and missed from 50.

INJURY REPORT

Verron Haynes, as expected, was the only member of the Steelers to miss practice Wednesday. The team's third-down running back remains probable with a knee injury and is expected to return today.

Two members of the Patriots missed their Wednesday practice. Fullback Patrick Pass (ankle) and defensive end Richard Seymour (knee) are both questionable. Seymour, a Pro Bowler, missed last Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts. On Jan. 5, Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters that Ty Law was likely to heal before Seymour. Law was then placed on injured reserve.


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