Notebook: Simmons a better fit today

Willie Parker cannot tell a lie. But he doesn't want to talk badly about one of his teammates, either, so Parker was in a difficult spot.

After rushing for 109 yards last Sunday, Parker was asked if he noticed a difference with road-grader Chris Kemoeatu playing right guard instead of injured Kendall Simmons.

"He's strong," Parker said of Kemoeatu. "I wouldn't say I noticed a difference because I don't want to [anger] anyone off, but he did really well."

Yet, after the Pittsburgh Steelers rushed for 219 yards – their most The Falcons don't have the capability to stuff the Steelers' interior the way the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers did. The Falcons not only allowed the New York Giants 259 yards (6.8 avg.) rushing, they lost All-Pro undertackle Rod Coleman to a toe injury. Coleman is listed as questionable, but missed every practice this week, as did defensive end John Abraham, who was on a coach-imposed 20-play limit last week after returning from a groin injury.

The Falcons' top run-stuffer today becomes nose tackle Grady Jackson. The 345-pounder spent last season with the Green Bay Packers. The Steelers, behind Duce Staley's 76 yards on 15 carries, rushed for 154 yards in a 20-10 win over the Packers.

"I remember him being hard to move," said Steelers guard Alan Faneca. "I remember us having trouble getting a push in that game, but that was against the whole line, not just him. Grady's a good player. He's a big guy, and you can't underestimate him and say, aw, he's just a big guy clogging it up. He's a big guy with years under his belt who can sniff things out."

This season, the 33-year-old Jackson has sniffed out 12 tackles and forced one fumble. His sidekick today will likely be second-year pro Jonathan Babineaux, a 286-pounder who should be more to Simmons's liking.

PROUD GANDY KEEP ON ROLLIN'

During the midst of Wayne Gandy's worst season in Pittsburgh, Steelers coach Bill Cowher stuck out a defiant chin to a questioning group of reporters and called Gandy "a proud player."

Today, Gandy will have to muster more pride than usual to help a leaky Falcons' offensive line that lost left guard Matt Lehr to a four-game substance abuse penalty.

Last week the Falcons allowed seven sacks to the Giants. Two of the sacks came from Gandy's man, Osi Umeniyora.

Gandy, of course, was replaced in Pittsburgh by Marvel Smith in 2003. When Smith went down with a pinched nerve, the Steelers went down as well and finished 6-10. Gandy played three seasons in New Orleans before the Falcons traded safety Bryan Scott for the 35-year-old tackle last off-season.

"Wayne's a great friend," said former wingmate Faneca. "It probably took that one season for us to regain our chemistry after he left. It was just a matter of us getting into situations and seeing things together and learning what each other's thought processes are."

UNDERRATED BIRDS

Vick is the headliner and Warrick Dunn is the catalyst, but two other Falcons are being mentioned as perhaps the best players in the NFL at their respective positions: tight end Alge Crumpler and cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

Crumpler has only 16 catches, but that's 27 percent of his team's catches. By contrast, Heath Miller has made 11 percent of his team's catches.

"I think everybody knows how special Michael Vick is," said Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu. "But I don't think that Alge -- although he is one of the best tight ends in the NFL -- gets the press that he deserves. Not that it really matters, but he's often overlooked."

Not many are overlooking Hall these days. The team's first-round pick in 2004 intercepted six passes last season and made the Pro Bowl. He's on his way back this season. Hall, with four picks, is tied for the NFL interceptions lead with Rashean Mathis.

"He has good ball instincts," said Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward. "He seems to have a knack for finding the ball and getting interceptions. That's what makes him deadly.

He's a great athlete, one of the up-and-coming stars. He's going to win some and I'm going to win some. Hopefully I win more than he does."


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