Deja vu for Bengals-Steelers game

PITTSBURGH – We have all been here before; all of us except Cincinnati defensive tackle Sam Adams. ... After a dismal showing last year against the Jacksonville Jaguars, in which they gained only 73 yards on 30 carries, the Steelers rebounded with ...

... 221 rushing yards and hammered the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-13, the following week. After a dismal showing last Monday against the Jaguars, in which they gained only 26 yards on 14 carries, the Steelers are looking to rebound again against the Bengals with a big rushing effort, and they always have. Jerome Bettis rushed for almost twice as many yards against the Bengals than against any other team in his career.

But Bettis isn't here anymore, and Adams is. He's the massive defensive tackle who was brought into the Bengals' fold in the off-season. His mission is to stuff the run, particularly against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jaguars proved you can shut the Steelers down with such execution.

"Twenty yards, a career low," said running back Willie Parker. "I'm miserable, frustrated. I'm ready to get back out there and show what I can do. I could've played the next morning. I'm so ready to play."

Adams will be waiting. Without the 33-year-old three-time Pro Bowler last season, the Bengals allowed 4.3 yards per carry (27th in the NFL) and 116 rushing yards per game, the worst of all playoff teams.

This year, in two games, the Bengals have allowed 3.8 yards per carry and 85 rushing yards per game. They held last year's AFC rushing champ, Larry Johnson, to 68 yards on 17 carries in an easy win over Kansas City. Last week they held Reuben Droughns to 32 yards on 14 carries in an easy win over Cleveland. With stout middle linebacker Odell Thurman out of both games, and Adams in, the difference in the Bengals' run defense has to be Adams.

"He's an NFL player," said an unimpressed Parker. "I want to say something, but I won't; maybe after the game. I'll just say that he's not a big factor. We went against one of the best defenses in the league last week and their defensive line was just hell, man. Sam Adams probably brings something to the table, but we'll be ready for it."

Adams anchors the Bengals' front seven, but the continuing suspension of Thurman -- last year's All-Rookie Team middle linebacker and rookie interception leader with five -- forced outside backer Brian Simmons to move inside. Flanking Simmons are Landon Johnson and rookie Rashad Jeanty, a three-year vet of the Canadian Football League.

Flanking Adams up front is right tackle John Thornton and left end Bryan Robinson. The right end is Justin Smith, who had three sacks in the opener.

Adams will hunker down over Steelers right guard Kendall Simmons, who last went up against Adams in the second game of his pro career. The Steelers lost that day in 2002 to the Oakland Raiders, 30-17. They gained only 72 yards rushing.

"It was a long one," said Simmons. "You had to sit there and wrassle with him the whole time, and he moves a lot better than what people give him credit for. So you kind of really have to get in front of him and stay in front of him.

"Tell him how you went to Burger King last night and ate three big Whoppers," said a nearby Alan Faneca.

Simmons laughed. "Everybody's telling me I need to put on some weight to try to handle him because I'll have him the whole game. But he's just elusive for somebody that big because he's a lot quicker getting off the ball. They say he's 350 but he's gotta be about 400 pounds at least. It's going to be a long one."

On film, said Simmons, Adams is "about the same Sam" as he was back in his Super Bowl days with the Raiders and before that the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. But Faneca isn't so sure.

"It's a plus and a minus because it's going to be an all-day job in the run game," Faneca said. "But in the passing game, as long as you can hunker down and hold him back, he's not a guy that will keep you on your toes and keep you moving around all day and make your job hard. It's a bit of a give and take."

Cowher might be alarmed by the Steelers' dip in rushing production, but he's not showing it. And he's not giving up on it. Most coaches won't release even the smallest of game-plan details. Cowher served it all up when he said "we're not going to deviate from our approach."

He knows a solid running attack will open up a rusty passing attack, as well as keep the explosive Bengals off the field.

"That will be something we continue to make a priority," Cowher said. "Certainly, it starts with our ability to control the line of scrimmage."


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