PITTSBURGH - When we last saw Jerome Bettis in uniform, he was slogging through one of the worst games of his stellar career in the Steelers' 24-17 AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots."> PITTSBURGH - When we last saw Jerome Bettis in uniform, he was slogging through one of the worst games of his stellar career in the Steelers' 24-17 AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots.">

Memories Of That Game Are Still Quite Fresh

<p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-top:5.0pt;margin-right:0in;margin-bottom:5.0pt; margin-left:0in;mso-pagination:none;mso-layout-grid-align:none;text-autospace: none">PITTSBURGH - When we last saw Jerome Bettis in uniform, he was slogging through one of the worst games of his stellar career in the Steelers' 24-17 AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots.

While the memories of that game are still quite fresh, the memories of Bettis' game - eight yards on nine carries - are something the Pro Bowl running back would just as soon forget. What people cannot seem to forget, however, is the fact that Bettis played in that game after a six-week layoff while suffering from the worst injury of his career, a torn groin muscle. Only last month, Bettis admitted that he re-injured his groin playing against the Patriots. Tonight, he'll get his first game action – however brief - since that injury, when the Steelers host the New York Jets at Heinz Field in the first of Pittsburgh's four preseason games.

 

Bettis is looking forward to showing the world that the injury is behind him, even if he only gets four or fives carries. "The only way people won't ask me about it is if they see me play," said Bettis. "That's the only way (the questions) will go away. Hopefully, it will go away after Thursday."

 

Steelers' head coach Bill Cowher said the team's starters will only play a couple of series against the Jets, in order to protect them against injury and give the coaching staff an opportunity to look at the team's younger players in game-type conditions. "When it becomes a true contact, full-hitting game, it is amazing how things change," said Cowher.

 

One player the coaching staff and fans are eager to see perform is second-round pick Antwaan Randle El. A former college quarterback, the rookie is making the transition to receiver. "I'm just looking forward to going against somebody other than our own guys," said Randle El. "I'm tired of working against the same guys all the time."

 

First-round pick Kendall Simmons also figures to get a good amount of playing time as he continues to battle veteran Oliver Ross and Keydrick Vincent for the starting right guard position. The Steelers know what Ross and Vincent can do, but they would like to see how Simmons performs under game conditions. "(Oliver), Kendall, and Keydrick will play a lot," said Cowher, "but probably mostly Kendall at this point."

 

The Jets enter the game banged up. Three-fifths of their starting offensive line will not play in the game and starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde is also out with an injured thumb. Former first-round draft pick Chad Pennington - a player many Steelers fans felt the team should have drafted instead of Plaxico Burress - will start the game in Testaverde's place.

 

The Steelers would have preferred that the Jets be at full strength, but they'll be content with working against another team. "I think right now we are in a situation, this isn't so much about us worrying about who's playing for the Jets," said Cowher. "We want to go out there and play well for us. Regardless of who is in there, our guys will be in there for a short period of time. . . These are very important games because it is an analysis to see how these young guys will be able to carry their play over into game situations. So I'm not worried about who is playing for them. More importantly, it is how we are playing as a team." Odds and end zones.

 

Fans are reminded that security will be much the same as last season. No bags or coolers will be permitted into Heinz Field. The Steelers have two trainers from the Irish rugby league in camp working with their trainers this week.

--Dale Lolley


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