Insiders Report Saturday 9/7/02

PITTSBURGH -­ Judging by guard Kendall Simmons' response to how he's preparing to play against the Patriots Monday night, it might be a stretch to think the rookie will play much. <p> "I really don't know what's going on with them," Simmons said of the Patriots' defense. It may not seem like it, but that's a big thing.

Some think playing the offensive line is as simple as just knocking the guy in front of you on his butt. That's part of it, but it's not the whole picture. Linemen in the NFL have to be aware of the safeties and linebackers creeping up to the line of scrimmage. They have to see where the blitzes are coming from. If they don't, the quarterback gets his head taken off. If Simmons plays Monday night, it should be sparingly.

Head coach Bill Cowher said he isn't going to play Simmons at the expense of losing a game. Would he like to get the team's No. 1 draft pick into the lineup? Yes. But it makes a lot more sense to let Simmons sit and watch the first two weeks of the regular season than it does to throw him to the wolves. New England and Oakland are two of the biggest games on the schedule and shouldn't be treated as Sunday school. Let Simmons sit and watch until the bye week. Then let him come out as the starter in week four against Cleveland.

Say what?
Left tackle Wayne Gandy's pre-game preparation this season will include getting his name out to reporters around the country. Tuesday night, Gandy's agent, Jon Feinsod, contacted the Boston Herald to make Gandy available for an interview. Feinsod explained that since this is Gandy's free agent year, he would be contacting writers in opposing cities every week in an attempt to increase his name recognition.

During the interview, Gandy was asked about the move. "It's two-fold. I'm trying to make sure my name is put out there," said Gandy. "We felt the last year or two that in the Pro Bowl balloting I've been forgotten. So we think this will help that. The other thing is that I'm thinking about becoming a sports reporter of some kind after football, and this is a good way to get an insight in all of you guys."

What about the Bus?
Is Steelers running back Jerome Bettis washed up? I don't pretend to be smart enough to know that by watching a few preseason games and a lot of practice. I'm waiting until I see him play a couple of real games first.

Then again, a lot of the guys who are saying Bettis is washed up are the same ones who have been saying it for the past few years. If you say it loud enough and long enough, sooner or later you're going to be right.

Speaking of Bettis, I don't believe for a moment that he forced himself on a woman in his car. Does anybody think Bettis is that stupid? Does anybody think he is that desperate? Not me.

It's amazing, but it doesn't appear the rash of injuries the Steelers suffered in the preseason will keep anyone out against New England. That witch doctor who has been walking around the team's practice facility must be doing some good work.

The Steelers enter the season with what has been determined to be one of the league's easiest schedules. That being said, don't expect them to match or better last season's 13-3 record. There's a lot of luck involved in going 13-3 in the NFL. And lucky bounces usually don't happen two years in a row. Look for the Steelers to go 11-5 this season.

That luck would also apply to the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. They are going to have to prove that they are that good.

--Dale Lolley

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