Answer Man

PITTSBURGH – Answer Man, are you over it yet?

AM: Over what?

JW: There we go. I knew you'd forget about that loss.

AM: Twenty-four hour rule, you know.

JW: There really aren't any behind-the-scenes questions I need to ask about the team. We've talked about the offensive line so much the last few weeks. I don't think we need to get into that too much, but I don't think the tackles played as poorly as everyone's saying, do you?

AM: Marvel (Smith) just had a bad game and Max (Starks) gave up a couple of plays.

JW: I think Max looks worse when he gets beat because he's so big and can really look like he's lumbering, but I'm hearing people say he's terrible.

AM: He's not terrible. He's just playing like a first-year guy, up and down. The key to this game is evening out and becoming consistent. Max is bouncing around from 75 to 90, which is typical of a first-year guy. He wants to get to that steady 85, 86 range.

JW: Are you talking about his grades?

AM: Yeah. I know Russ (Grimm) doesn't grade these guys that way, but I think you understand my point. Mike Webster, he was always in the 90s, every game, every year. He'd get upset about a 91 or a 92.

JW: What grade would you put on Max against Jax?

AM: I didn't watch the film, but I will say that (Reggie) Hayward was better than I had anticipated. He carries much more momentum on his inside move than I thought he was capable of. And I didn't know their linebackers were that good. I knew they were fast, but I didn't know they could blow up plays as well as they did. That stack 4-3 makes it tough to get to those guys.

JW: Stack 4-3?

AM: In the normal 4-3, the middle backer lines up over the center and the outside backers are outside the ends. In the stack, the ends are split and the backers line up between the tackles and they're harder to find.

JW: What about the Bengals? It's a pretty big game. Maybe you'd better practice that 24-hour rule instead of just preaching about it.

AM: Well, well.

JW: Just kidding. What do you strikes you first about the Bengals?

AM: How much better Carson Palmer is from last year. He doesn't make mistakes, puts it where it needs to be, it comes out quick, great sense of the offense. He's just playing great football right now. He has great receivers, guys who can run like Chad Johnson, the big kid from West Virginia (Chris Henry), Kelley Washington, and then there's Rudi Johnson in the backfield and a very good offensive line. It's a very good offense.

JW: Do you see them spreading the Steelers' beat-up secondary out?

AM: Absolutely. If they decided to do that, there would be some real challenging match-ups for the Steelers.

JW: So there are three cornerbacks listed as questionable and they all practiced Thursday and Friday. I'm thinking they're going to start Bryant McFadden and pick the healthiest of those three injured guys to play in the dime.

AM: I see (Ricardo) Colclough starting. I know one coach who's big on him and I haven't heard anything about anyone else. I'm speculating now, but I'd be stunned if (Bill) Cowher went with a rookie, just knowing him.

JW: What do you make of the reports that Ike Taylor will "shadow" Chad Johnson?

AM: Deshea Townsend's told a couple of guys that, right? I can't believe there's a shred of truth to it. The Chin would hit the floor if he read one of his veterans was giving away the game plan, especially two days in a row. After the first report, there wouldn't have been a second. It just doesn't make sense.

JW: What about Cincinnati's defense?

AM: Defensively they're very athletic and they hustle and make a lot of plays. But they get caught in over-pursuit sometimes because they're so aggressive. That's why Jacksonville cut back on them all day a couple weeks ago.

JW: Jerome Bettis always has success against the Bengals. Won't they him more than Willie Parker?

AM: I personally would use both of them. The Bus does bring a physical presence, but I'd like to see Willie cut back on this team. I think it's a good game for a healthy dose of both of them.

JW: So what's your gut telling you about this game?

AM: I don't know. I'm kind of in between. The Steelers could whoop up on them physically, but, hey, they could lose the game. I'm not quite sure. It's tough for me to picture this match-up for some reason. I would think the Steelers could control the ball against these guys, but they're going to have some chances, the Bengals will, to score. I'm looking to see if the Steelers can play the same way they did against San Diego: control the ball and play good defense. That's what it'll take.

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