The latest in Steelers news:

Our Buzz segment allows SCI reporters to post here any news, rumors or opinions they may have about the Steelers, before they go to work on the entire story. Be sure to check back often.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 2, 12 p.m.

* The Steelers have signed offensive tackles Jason Capizzi and Jeremy Parquet to their active roster to replace Max Starks and Clint Kriewaldt, who were placed on injured reserve.

Capizzi spent the offseason and training camp with the Steelers before spending time on the practice squads of Tampa Bay, the Jets and Kansas City.

Parquet has been on the Steelers practice squad the past three weeks.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 31, 3 p.m.

* According to the Denver Post, the Steelers have signed former Colorado University standout and world-class skiier Jeremy Bloom to their practice squad. A return specialist who's listed as a wide receiver, Bloom last played with the Philadelphia Eagles, but has been out of football since September.

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 5:15 p.m.

* Steelers linebacker James Harrison was the surprise winner of the Steelers' 2007 Most Valuable Player award. Teammates passed on quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to vote Harrison, the team's best pass-rusher, their MVP.

Harrison, a first-year starter, was named a starting outside linebacker on AFC's 2008 Pro Bowl squad for his outstanding play during the regular season. Through 15 games he leads all Steelers with 8.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. He has 73 tackles (61 solo), one interception and two recovered fumbles. Harrison is also tied for second on the Steelers with 12 special teams tackles (nine solo).

Harrison is the first Steelers linebacker since James Farrior (2004) to be selected by his teammates as the club's most valuable player. His selection represents the 14th time a linebacker has been selected Steelers MVP since 1969. During that time, 10 different linebackers received the honor, including three players ? Jack Lambert (1976, '81), Greg Lloyd ('91, '94) and Levon Kirkland ('98, '99) ? who were each selected twice.

* Missing practice Wednesday for the Steelers were LB Clint Kriewaldt (neck), WR Willie Reid (shoulder) and OT Marvel Smith (back). Limited in practice were QB Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) and LB Andre Frazier (groin).

Missing practice for the Ravens were QB Kyle Boller (head), WR Mark Clayton (head), TE Todd Heap (thigh), LB Ray Lewis (back), RB Willis McGahee (chest), S Gerome Sapp (thigh), TE Quinn Sypniewski (head) and TE Daniel Cox (thigh).

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23, 9:15 a.m.

* WR Santonio Holmes' 83-yard reception on the Steelers' first play from scrimmage Thursday night was the second-longest in team history that did not go for a touchdown. It was the 13th longest pass play in Pittsburgh history.

The longest non-touchdown pass completion came from Bubby Brister to Dwight Stone at Denver on Oct. 14, 1990 -- for 90 yards.

* The Rams sacked Roethlisberger four times. That's 47 this season for Big Ben, the second most in team history. Roethlisberger was sacked 46 times last season. Cliff Stoudt's 51 sacks in 1983 were the team's all-time high -- or low, depending on your perspective.

* Pittsburgh ended a drought of 13 quarters without a sack when it got one Thursday night in the fourth quarter. The Steelers have just two sacks in their past four games and 34 sacks overall.

* Kicker Jeff Reed is having a virtual perfect season. He kicked two more field goals Thursday night to go 21 of 23 -- his only misses from 65 yards in Denver and 44 in the muck, rain and wind at Heinz Field. Over the last three seasons, he's 37 of 39 on the road.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger's three touchdown passes give him 32 this season, extending the Steelers' single-season record he broke the previous game and second-most in the AFC behind Tom Brady.

* RB Verron Haynes, a veteran released by the Steelers before the season, may get another look as a replacement for Willie Parker on the roster. Haynes worked out for them several weeks ago when Najeh Davenport was injured.

* WR Hines Ward passed John Stallworth as Pittsburgh's all-time receiving leader with 8,737 yards. He also holds the club record with 719 catches and 65 touchdown receptions.

* FS Anthony Smith lost his starting job to Tyrone Carter, but Smith came up with his third interception Thursday night and is tied for the team lead with three.

* LB Lawrence Timmons, the team's first-round draft choice, broke his hand Thursday night but may be able to play in the next game. He has mainly been limited to special teams play.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 18, 3:45 p.m.

* Five Steelers were named to the AFC Pro Bowl today. LB James Harrison and RG Alan Faneca were named as starters for the AFC, while QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Willie Parker, and SS Troy Polamalu were chosen as reserves.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13, 9:20 a.m.

* The Steelers held tryouts with OG Matt Lentz (Michigan) and OT Jonathan Palmer (Auburn). Palmer was added to the practice squad.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13, 8:45 a.m.

* The No. 1 offense in the NFL had its way with the No. 1 defense last week when the Steelers lost in New England, 34-13. This Sunday, it's No. 2 vs. No. 2 as Jacksonville enters Heinz Field with the No. 2 run offense against the NFL's second-best defense against the run.

The Steelers have to play the rest of the season without one of their best players, Aaron Smith. He was deadly against the run, a mainstay as their starting left defensive end since 2000.

Travis Kirschke, 33, will start in place of Smith and Nick Eason also will get some playing time there.

Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew should test the Steelers run defense like no one else this season. Pittsburgh has allowed one 100-yard rusher this season and only two in the past 63 games.

"This is a big, physical football team," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "They run the ball very effectively."

The one-two punch of Taylor and Jones-Drew is the most potent the Steelers have faced all season.

"He's been doing it at a high level for a long time," Tomlin said of the 31-year-old Taylor. "He just had an 80-yard touchdown this past weekend. So nothing surprises me in terms of what he's capable of.

"Jones-Drew is a great complement to him, does a lot of things well, can run inside, can run outside. He can catch the ball extremely well and is a quality kickoff return man. This is a young guy; it is his second year and I think he's got plus-25 career touchdowns already in less than two full seasons. So he is a big part of what they do."

The Steelers expect the Jaguars to try to run on them, even if the record shows it's most difficult.

"They're a great running team," Kirschke said. "They're going to run the ball whether I'm there or not. That's their game plan, that's what they do and they do it well."

Linebacker Larry Foote believes the Jaguars are the best running team they will face, that Taylor is the best they face and that Jones-Drew, at 5-foot-7, can cause other types of problems because "you can lose him."

"What makes them the best, they're not going to quit at it. Teams, a lot of times they quit. They're not going to quit."

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 9:05 a.m.

* The Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers each attempted to claim former Steelers OC Marvin Philip off waivers, but the Browns were awarded Philip by virtue of their poorer win-loss percentage. Philip was released by the Steelers on Monday. To make room for Philip, the Browns waived OC Greg Eslinger.

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 5:05 p.m.

* The Steelers made two roster moves today along the defensive line after losing one of their best players to injury.

The team announced that nine-year veteran defensive end Aaron Smith has been placed on the Reserve/Injured list with a biceps injury and will miss the remainder of the season. Smith was injured in the Steelers' Week 14 game at New England. He had never missed a game prior to this season due to injury.

A member of the 2005 AFC Pro Bowl squad, Smith has started 121-of-129 games played during his career at left defensive end. Originally drafted in the fourth round (190th overall) of the 1999 NFL Draft, Smith has registered 429 tackles (331 solo) and 36.5 sacks during his career. Only three players on the Steelers roster — 10-year veterans Alan Faneca, Hines Ward and Deshea Townsend — have a longer tenure with the team.

The Steelers promoted 2007 fourth-round draft pick Ryan McBean from their practice squad to fill Smith's place on the active roster. A defensive end from Oklahoma State, McBean (6-5, 290) was the 132nd overall selection in last April's NFL Draft. He has spent the entire season on the Steelers' practice squad after being released during the final roster cut of the preseason. McBean will wear uniform No. 95.

TUESDAY, JANUARY 11, 2:00 p.m.

* DE Aaron Smith suffered a torn biceps muscle against the Patriots and may be lost for the season.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 10, 5:15 p.m.

* The Steelers claimed linebacker Marquis Cooper and added him to their active roster. Cooper was claimed off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Cooper (6-3, 220), a four-year veteran, was released by the Steelers earlier this year (Sept. 19) and was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 27. He played in one game for the Jaguars (Week 13 versus Indianapolis).

Cooper originally signed with the Steelers Oct. 31, 2006, and was re-signed prior to training camp this year. He played in two games and was inactive for a third before being released on Nov. 25. Cooper played two seasons (2004-05) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played in four games last season with the Seattle Seahawks.

To make room for Cooper, the Steelers released Marvin Philip. Philip, a second-year center, spent time on both the Steelers' active roster and practice squad this year.

MONDAY, DECEMBER 10, 7:55 a.m.

* Pittsburgh would like to close out the AFC North Division championship when they play the Jacksonville Jaguars at home Sunday.

But it's getting tougher and tougher. The Cleveland Browns just won't go away and after Pittsburgh's blowout loss to New England yesterday and Cleveland's victory over the New York Jets, the Browns remain one game behind.

* The Steelers weren't reeling from their three-touchdown loss in New England, but they were humbled; their No. 1 defense was strafed by Tom Brady for 399 yards and four touchdowns.

It's not something they will get over quickly.

"When you get beat like this, it is tough to do," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "You got punched in the face, kept getting punched in the face and you really didn't punch back."

As coach Mike Tomlin said, "We have a ways to go. If that is the measuring stick, we're not close. That being said, we'll roll up our sleeves and go back to work."

* The Steelers return home, where they are 7-0 this season. They follow with two games on the road, where they have not done well. They are 2-4 away from Heinz Field with their only two victories coming in the state of Ohio -- one each in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Their final two games come at St. Louis and Baltimore.

"We have to win, we have to win," linebacker Larry Foote said. "We're not guaranteed into the playoffs right now so we have to take care of business next week."

* Jacksonville is an old AFC Central Division foe of theirs and some still remember the bad blood between the two teams.

"We know Jacksonville's going to be tough," Foote said. "They won big and it's always a tough game when we play them. We have to get ready for Jacksonville."

* The loss to the Patriots could mean little if the Steelers bounce back and win the division. Either way, it appeared they weren't going to get either of the top two seeds. Winning the division would give them at least a home game in the first week. Then two wins in the playoffs likely would send them back to New England.

"We don't need to be thinking about if we play them again," Foote said. "We have to get into the playoffs."

* SS Troy Polamalu missed his third straight game with a sprained knee and his status remains unclear. Polamalu looked to be on schedule to return vs. the Patriots after missing two games but his knee was re-injured in practice last Wednesday.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger has 26 touchdown passes, two fewer than Terry Bradshaw's team record for a season.

* RB Willie Parker has seven 100-yard games after his 124-yard day against New England, the team's only loss this season when he has topped 100.

* RB Najeh Davenport caught a 32-yard touchdown pass vs. New England, his only touchdown reception this season.

* CB Ike Taylor shadowed a receiver for the first time this season. Randy Moss caught seven passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns, although some came when Taylor was supposed to get safety help.

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 6, 9:00 a.m.

* Patriots LB Mike Vrabel and SS Rodney Harrison were seen limping in the Patriots locker room following Monday night's win. However, since the Patriots players had the day off on Wednesday, their status for this Sunday's showdown with the Steelers won't be known until at least today (Thursday).

* OL Russ Hochstein replaced Stephen Neal last week at guard. Neal has been battling a shoulder injury all season and he's questionable for the Steelers game.

* WR Jabar Gaffney hasn't received the headlines that some other receivers on the Patriots have, but he's been a valuable part of the team just the same. Gaffney has caught the winning touchdown pass the last two weeks against both the Eagles and Ravens.

* DL Richard Seymour got dominated against the Ravens last week and appears to be just a shadow of his former self. The Pro Bowler was on the PUP list and missed the first seven games of the season, so perhaps he's still getting into playing shape. Whatever the reason, Seymour isn't the dominating presence he's been in years past.

* SS Troy Polamalu, who leads the balloting for his fifth Pro Bowl, returned to practice and will start Sunday after missing the past two games.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger needs four TD passes in the final four games to throw the most in one season in Steelers history. He has 25 and Terry Bradshaw had 28 in 1978.

* WR Hines Ward needs 122 receiving yards to become the team's career leader ahead of John Stallworth, who holds the record with 8,723.

* OT Marvel Smith, who missed the past two games, returned to practice and will start Sunday. Smith has a recurring disc problem in his back.

* WR Santonio Holmes, who still leads the team with 664 receiving yards, returned to practice Wednesday and will start against New England after missing the past two games.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 2, 7:30 p.m.

* Running back Najeh Davenport is on the Steelers inactive list for their game against the Cincinnati Bengals, with rookie Gary Russell set to get his first shot at backing up Willie Parker.

No word on whether this move was made because of ineffectiveness or whether Davenport woke up with a case of the runs today.

The rain for this game, if anything, is actually coming down harder than last week's game against Miami. But the field looks like it is holding up much better. It appears the week of work on it – rolling it and drying it – have made it better able to stand up to the beating it will take in an NFL game. (--d.l.)

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 1, 9:00 a.m.

* WR Santonio Holmes (ankle) is out for Sunday night's game against the Bengals. S Troy Polamalu (knee) and T Marvel Smith (back) are doubtful. CB Bryant McFadden (ankle) is probable.

For the Bengals, T Willie Anderson (knee) is out. WRs Chad Johnson (knee) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (back), RB Kenny Watson (hip), DT John Thornton (knee), LB Landon Johnson (back), CB Deltha O'Neal (knee), and S Nedu Ndukwe (Achilles) are probable

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 1:20 p.m.

* Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin just told tight end Jon Dekker at lunch that he's being activated off the practice squad. We'll have the complete roster move as soon as we get it.-- j.w.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 8:25 a.m.

* Former Steelers defensive tackle Gabe Rivera was honored at Monday night's game, as part of the team's 75th Season celebration. Rivera, a first-round draft pick in 1983, was paralyzed in a car accident a month into his rookie season. Now 46, Rivera works as a youth counselor in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas.

"It feels good," Rivera said of his return to Pittsburgh. "It's a different atmosphere than at Three Rivers, though."

* Four players from the 1980s were honorary captains Monday night: linebacker Robin Cole, guard Craig Wolfley, linebacker Bryan Hinkle and receiver Louis Lipps.

* Monday was the longest scoreless game in the NFL since 1943.

* WR Hines Ward led everyone with nine receptions for 88 yards on a day in which it was not easy to catch a football. Ward said his gloves became wet and muddy, his feet were wet and his legs heavy.

"It's the footing," Ward said about the most difficult thing of playing in the muck. "Some of the areas on the field were pretty good, then all of a sudden, you'd hit a water puddle. Then, the level of the field kind of was off a little bit. I knew some of the defensive backs were scared about falling down and giving up a big play."

* The Steelers are breathing easier, knowing they escaped what could have been a catastrophic upset loss to the winless Miami Dolphins with a 3-0 victory Monday night at home.

Not only would there have been the humiliation of becoming the only team to lose to the Dolphins, but a loss would have dropped them into a first-place tie with the surging Cleveland Browns.

Instead, the Steelers survived to go 8-3, tied for the third-best record in the AFC, one game ahead of 7-4 Cleveland.

"It was a test of our character," coach Mike Tomlin said.

* Bengals WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh has a bruised back, leftover from the Arizona game, but he is expected to play Sunday night against the Steelers.

* S Dexter Jackson has a bruised hand and wrist but will play against the Steelers.

* LB Landon Johnson has a cut on his arm. He, like Houshmandzadeh and Jackson, will play against the Steelers.

* RT Willie Anderson missed his sixth game as inactive Sunday because of knee and heel injuries. There's a chance Anderson could go on the season-ending reserve list, though the 12th-year veteran has said he expects to play again this season. "We'll see on Wednesday," coach Marvin Lewis said.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 8:10 p.m.

* The players heen asked to leave the field because of lightning in the area and the start has been suspended until 9 p.m.

The field is drenched, the new sod is ponding and is splotched with mud, and the rain continues to come down. Also, the painted white lines came up when the field was "squeegied" and new white lines have been painted every 10 yards, if possible.

* Marvel Smith has been placed on the inactive list for tonight's game because of back spasms. Max Starks will start at left tackle. The inactive list includes Smith, Santonio Holmes, Gary Russell, Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley, Marvin Philip, Darnell Stapleton, and Brian St. Pierre.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 10:35 a.m.

* WR Santonio Holmes, the Steelers' leading receiver in all categories, will not play tonight because of a high ankle sprain. The injury also could keep him sidelined against the Bengals.

* SS Troy Polamalu, who has made the past three Pro Bowls, will also miss tonight's game with a sprained knee. He is iffy for the game against Cincinnati.

* LB Lawrence Timmons, the team's first-round draft choice, has been taking more snaps in specialized pass defenses. He's played only a handful of snaps on defense but may be ready for more time there.

* S Tyrone Carter will replace Troy Polamalu in the starting lineup. Carter said he writes a few letters a week to his brother Tank, who is in a Florida jail after he skipped a sentencing hearing to watch his brother play in Super Bowl XL. Instead of six months, the judge gave him five years.

* OT Max Starks has replaced Jerame Tuman, placed on injured reserve, as the third tight end in blocking situations.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 4:15 p.m.

* Heinz Field management and the Steelers will re-sod the entire playing surface at Heinz Field for the game Monday night against the Miami Dolphins.

The Steelers made this decision "After taking into consideration the number of high school, college and pro football games being played at Heinz Field in November, combined with the possibility of inclement weather."

According to a press release, the Steelers say, "We will continue to use our regular playing surface in the future, but feel this option will provide for the most enjoyable game-day experience for both the players and the fans in the final games of the season."

Four WPIAL championship games will be played at Heinz Field on Friday and Pitt will play on Saturday. Workers will begin re-sodding the field immediately after the Pitt-South Florida game.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 9:00 a.m.

* One thing is for certain, nobody travels like Steelers Nation. The Jets' 19-16 overtime victory over Pittsburgh was played in East Rutherford, N.J., but the setting looked more like Pittsburgh, as thousands of Terrible Towel-waving Steelers fans invaded the Meadowlands.

"I've never seen more visiting fans than home fans ever," sixth-year tight end Chris Baker said. "It was definitely disappointing. Having been here for awhile, it was motivation for me. It was more irritating to me to see that many fans for another team here in our stadium. I just gave them a wave after the (game-winning) field goal and said, 'thanks for coming.'"

"I thought we were playing at a neutral site at first," strong safety Kerry Rhodes said. "I thought we were somewhere between New York and Pittsburgh. It kind of ticked us off a little bit."

* Pittsburgh held the No. 2 position in the AFC before their loss to the Jets. Now it goes to Indianapolis. How good are the Steelers at 7-3?

"We had the lead 16-13 in the fourth quarter," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "Good teams find a way to put teams like that away. We're a good team, we're not great team. The great teams find ways to overcome that, finish strong, and today we didn't do that."

* WR Santonio Holmes left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter with a right ankle sprain and did not return. His status will be updated at today's press conference.

* LB James Harrison added another sack to stretch his team-leading total to 7.5.

* CB Deshea Townsend intercepted his second pass, putting him in a tie with Ike Taylor for the team lead.

* OT Max Starks played often as the third tight end in blocking situations Sunday.

* TE Matt Spaeth caught his first pass in four games and now has five receptions in his rookie season -- three for touchdowns.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 7:00 a.m.

* In preparation for today's game with the Steelers, the New York Jets signed LB Jason Trusnik (from Jets practice squad) to their 53-man roster. FB Stacy Tutt (knee) was placed on injured reserve.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 9:25 a.m.

* LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) is out for the Steelers' Week 11 game vs. the Jets. FB Dan Kreider (player decision), RB Willie Parker (hip), LB Andre Frazier (groin) are probable.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 9:00 a.m.

* S Ryan Clark had his spleen removed this week. Clark, the Steelers' starting free safety since he arrived as an unrestricted free agent in 2006, has not played since Oct. 21. After that game in Denver, doctors discovered he had an inflamed spleen and said it was brought on by exertion in high altitude combined with Clark having the sickle cell trait.

Initially, Clark and the Steelers thought he might miss only a game or two, but the condition did not improve and this week coach Mike Tomlin placed him on injured reserve.

"When I was with the Redskins, I had the same type of thing happen" in Denver, Clark said. "They diagnosed it a little differently. They thought it was a little contusion. We're learning more about it now."

Anthony Smith, who started the past three games at free safety, will continue to start in Clark's spot.

* RB Willie Parker returned to practice Thursday after holding out on Monday with a slight hip problem. The AFC's leading rusher will be ready to play against the Jets, ranked last in the league against the run.

* SS Troy Polamalu, who had problems with rib cartilage earlier in the season, leads the team with 10 passes defensed.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger is the Steelers' third-leading rushers with 135 yards on 18 carries and has one touchdown, one fewer than Willie Parker.

* Jets WR Laveranues Coles practiced fully on Thursday and is not on the injury report after missing the Washington game with a concussion. He will start Sunday against Pittsburgh.

* Jets FB Stacy Tutt (knee) practiced on a limited basis Thursday. His status for Sunday's game is uncertain. Meanwhile, TE Chris Baker (back) and WR Brad Smith (back) practiced fully on Thursday and are expected to play.

* Looking strong, a bald Ricky Williams strolled into Dolphins headquarters Thursday morning and a few hours later Miami coach Cam Cameron welcomed him back into the fold. Williams, 30, will start practicing on Monday and is eligible to play against the top-ranked defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers a week later. Combine that with the return of Joey Porter to Heinz Field on Monday Night Football and let the circus begin.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 11:00 a.m.

* The season is over for a pair of injured Steelers. The team has placed FS Ryan Clark and TE Jerame Tuman on injured reserve.

Clark has been suffering from an inflamed spleen since the Steelers' loss in Denver. Tuman has a disc problem in his back.

Clark's deactivation comes as no surprise given the grim picture painted yesterday by our own Jim Wexell.

The Steelers signed OC Marvin Philip from the practice squad and can still add one additional player to the 53-man roster.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 8:55 a.m.

* Coach Mike Tomlin said Sunday that the kickoff team "stinks" but said on Tuesday that the Steelers would not panic "just because things go bad."

"We have the guys," Tomlin said. "There won't be drastic changes."

Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs returned two kickoffs for 190 yards Sunday; one of 90 yards to the three to set up a first-half touchdown, the other 100 yards for a touchdown to give the Browns the lead in the fourth quarter.

This Sunday, the Steelers kickoff unit will try to stop Leon Washington of the Jets, the only man in the NFL with three kickoff returns for touchdowns. Washington leads the NFL with a 33.5-yard average per return.

The Steelers rank 27th in the NFL in kickoff return average against them.

"One thing is for certain: We stink as a kickoff coverage unit," is how Tomlin put it after Cribbs exploded through them on Sunday.

"We have to be honest with ourselves -- we need some work," said Allan Rossum, who returns kicks and tries to cover them.

* RB Willie Parker leads the AFC in rushing with 873 yards and trails only injured Vikings rookie Adrian Peterson for the NFL lead. He's still bothered by knee swelling but that won't keep him out of the game against the Jets.

* RB Najeh Davenport's 53 carries are just seven fewer than he had all last season with the Steelers. He has a 5.3-yard average per carry.

* WR Santonio Holmes ranks second in the NFL among those players with at least 30 receptions with a 17.3-yard average per catch.

* LB James Harrison leads the team with 6.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. His 52 tackles are second.

* CB Deshea Townsend has an ankle injury that may prevent him from practicing Wednesday. He's expected to start on Sunday.

* LB LaMarr Woodley has a hamstring injury and is questionable for Sunday's game. Woodley began the season playing a lot as a specialist pass rusher and has three sacks, but his playing time has diminished lately.

* PR/KR Allen Rossum will continue to return punts and kickoffs even though he has been a disappointment. Coach Mike Tomlin said he won't consider a switch to Santonio Holmes "at this time."

* Browns TE Kellen Winslow was an early target of QB Derek Anderson, but the Steelers quickly took him away. Winslow had four catches on the Browns' first drive, just one the rest of the game.

* WR Braylon Edwards made an amazing effort to get his feet down on a touchdown catch in the second quarter. But that was Edwards' only catch of the day, as the Steelers did a good job of taking away the Browns playmakers.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 8:15 a.m.

* The Steelers moved into the No. 2 seed in the AFC behind New England after 10 weeks of the season. Pittsburgh and Indianapolis are tied at 7-2, but Indianapolis has lost twice to AFC opponents, and the Steelers have just one AFC loss. The Steelers and Colts do not play, but the Steelers play at New England on Dec. 9.

* The Steelers' next three games come at the Jets (1-8), then home against Miami (0-9) and Cincinnati (3-6).

* RB Willie Parker had trouble with his footing in a wet Heinz Field on Sunday and slipped several times.

"I'm not getting my feet under me," said Parker, who ran 25 times for 105 yards. "I felt I could do a better job of that, and I take full responsibility for it."

* The conditions at notorious Heinz Field won't get any better anytime soon. The Steelers have two home games over the next three weeks, Pitt plays once, and there will be five high school championship games played in Heinz Field during that span.

* RB Najeh Davenport failed to score from the 2-yard line Sunday, picking up no yards just before Ben Roethlisberger threw the winning TD pass on second down to Heath Miller. The Steelers have only five rushing TDs from their backs this season.

* WR Cedrick Wilson has disappeared in the Steelers offense. He had no receptions Sunday and has just seven this season. He started at split end for them last season.

* TE Matt Spaeth has cooled off since a quick start to his rookie season. He dropped the only pass thrown to him Sunday and has four catches this season, three for TDs.

* PK Jeff Reed made all three of his field-goal attempts Sunday and is now 14 of 15, his lone miss coming from 65 yards in Denver.

* WR Hines Ward's fourth TD catch of the season leaves him one short of tying John Stallworth for the team's career record of 63.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 9:20 a.m.

* The Steelers own a 16-2 lifetime record against the New York Jets, who have the same kind of winning percentage this season at 1-8.

Pittsburgh boosted its lead in the division to, in essence, three games. At 7-2, they are two games ahead of the second-place Browns, who are 5-4. But the Steelers essentially lead by three over Cleveland because they hold the first tiebreaker with their two victories against the Browns.

The Ravens tumbled to third at 4-5 with their loss to Cincinnati, which brings up the rear at 3-6.

The Steelers are 4-0 in the division with games left at Baltimore and home against the Bengals.

"We like our chances where we're at and definitely where we're going," receiver Hines Ward said.

"It's just another step. We're moving in the right direction. We're undefeated in our division. We kind of separated ourselves from everybody else but there's still a lot of football left."

Said defensive end Brett Keisel, "We're 4-0 in our division, which is huge. We put ourselves in a good position to make a run for the playoffs. That's all we want, to get into the playoffs and let whatever happens there take its toll."

* The last time quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played the Jets -- as a rookie in 2004 -- he beat them in the playoffs in Pittsburgh. But Roethlisberger played poorly in that game, and the victory would be the last of an otherwise solid rookie campaign.

Roethlisberger is hotter now than at any other time in his career. He passed for two touchdowns and ran for another in a 31-28 victory over Cleveland Sunday and has scored 14 touchdowns in the four games since the bye.

His 22 touchdown passes this season are just six short of Terry Bradshaw's club record, set in 1978. His 14 consecutive games with a touchdown pass is a team record, and his passer rating is at an all-time high of 110.2.

"To me it's about winning football games," Roethlisberger said. "Whether that's by throwing no touchdown passes or throwing five, it doesn't matter to me. As long as we win the football game, that's all that matters to me."

Roethlisberger had to throw in the second half to pull out the victory against the Browns last Sunday, his 10th comeback victory in the fourth quarter with the Steelers, first this season.

He completed 13 of 17 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns in the second half after the Steelers fell behind 21-9 at halftime. He scrambled 30 yards up the middle for the longest touchdown run of his career to pull Pittsburgh ahead in the fourth quarter. When they fell behind again, Roethlisberger engineered a drive that ended with him tossing the winning touchdown pass to Heath Miller.

It completed a three-game sweep of their three division foes, gave them a 4-0 record in the division and kept them on track to return to the playoffs after missing out at 8-8 in their post-Super Bowl season.

"We got the wins that we needed when we need them and now we go back on the road," Roethlisberger said. "We play the Jets this week and that's who the focus is going to be on."

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 8:40 a.m.

* TE Heath Miller is tied for the team lead with Santonio Holmes at six TD catches. The last tight end to lead the Steelers in TD receptions was Eric Green with five in 1993.

* RB Willie Parker has six 100-yard games and 873 yards rushing. He threw his first pass as a halfback Sunday.

* LB James Harrison has five forced fumbles in the past two games, including two against Cleveland yesterday.

* WR Hines Ward regained the Steelers lead with 35 receptions, one more than Santonio Holmes.

* DE Aaron Smith started Sunday after missing the past two games with a sprained knee MCL.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 7:45 a.m.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice Thursday and will start on Sunday against Cleveland. Roethlisberger left Monday night's game with a bruised hip and did not practice Wednesday.

* RB Willie Parker, the AFC's leading rusher, returned to practice Thursday and will start on Sunday. Parker did not practice Wednesday because of slight swelling in a knee.

* WR Santonio Holmes did not practice on Thursday because of a new injury to his hamstring. Holmes said he should be OK.

* DE Aaron Smith went through another full practice Thursday and will return to start. Smith missed the first two games since his rookie season in 1999 because of a MCL knee sprain.

* FB Dan Kreider has practiced all week and likely will make his fourth straight start. Kreider suffered a concussion in Monday's game. On the Browns front:

* LB D'Qwell missed his second practice this week because of an ankle injury.

* LB Willie McGinest returned to practice after missing Wednesday for personal reasons.

* With the injuries to both starting guards a concern, Ryan Tucker worked at right guard and Lennie Friedman practiced at left guard Thursday.

* On Wednesday, Steelers LB James Farrior said Browns TE Kellen Winslow Jr. better "have his head on a swivel" because Winslow blind-sided Farrior with a late block last year in Pittsburgh. Winslow had no retort Thursday when asked about Farrior's remark.

* LB Antwan Peek has swelling on his knee and did not practice.

* CB Leigh Bodden was limited in practice because of a back injury.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 9:30 a.m.

* Ben Roethlisberger threw four touchdowns against the Browns in the season opener, a 34-7 Pittsburgh victory in Cleveland. Since then, the Browns have won five of seven games even though their defense is ranked dead last in the league.

It's a ranking that is skewed, Roethlisberger said.

"They'll go at you, throw blitzes at you. They'll bend, let you get down into the red zone and kick field goals and not score touchdowns. I'm sure their philosophy is to keep it close and let the offense win it late.

"They're playing inspired right now. They have a lot of belief and confidence, as they should. They deserve it."

That first performance in Cleveland kicked Roethlisberger's season off to a great start and he has not slowed down. In fact, he's on fire after his five-touchdown performance in the first half against the Ravens Monday night. It's only the fifth time in the past 20 years that a quarterback has thrown five TDs in a half.

Roethlisberger has thrown 20 touchdowns, two more than his career high and on pace to gut Terry Bradshaw's team record of 28 set in 1978. Those touchdowns are second in the NFL only to Tom Brady's 33, and his 111.9 passer rating is second as well.

* SI.com rated Heinz Field No. 2 among NFL stadiums for best fan experience. They polled 17,000 fans and rated seven categories: tickets, food and souvenirs, accessibility, tailgating, caliber of team, stadium atmosphere and neighborhood. Lambeau Field in Green Bay ranked first.

* LB James Harrison has risen to second on the team with 48 tackles and leads with 41 solos. He also leads the team with 6.5 sacks after his 3.5-sack performance Monday night, which earned him the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.

* WR Santonio Holmes has six TD receptions halfway through the season. The team record is 12, held by three players, including Hines Ward.

* LB James Farrior, who also had a sack Monday, now has five, a career high.

* CB Ike Taylor continues to be plagued by dropped interceptions, dropping another one Monday night. However, he's the only player on the team with two interceptions.

* DE Aaron Smith hopes to return to the starting lineup Sunday after missing the past two games with a sprained knee. "Aaron has a chance to play this week," Mike Tomlin said.

* Starting FS Ryan Clark continues to miss practice. Clark was diagnosed with an inflamed spleen after the game in Denver and missed the past two games. Anthony Smith replaced him.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger (hip) did not practice on Wednesday, but will start Sunday.

* RB Willie Parker (knee) did not practice on Wednesday, but will be fine.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 9:00 a.m.

* The Browns travel to Pittsburgh Sunday with something at stake few thought would have ever been at stake for Cleveland this year: First place in the division.

If the Browns beat Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, the two teams will both have 6-3 records and be tied for first place.

"We're going to play a good game," coach Romeo Crennel said.

It will not be easy, though. If one team has owned the Browns and gotten into their heads, it's the Steelers. Pittsburgh opened the season in Cleveland and embarrassed the Browns 34-7.

But there have been others, including a 41-0 Christmas Eve massacre in 2005 and last season's 27-7 loss in Pittsburgh in frigid temperatures.

The Steelers have beaten the Browns eight games in a row, and 20-of-23.

The Browns have made a lot of strides this season and cleared a lot of hurdles. They have one last one, and that's to get the Steelers monkey off their back.

"It might be a hurdle some people have to overcome," Crennel said. "But they put their pants on one leg at a time just like we do. I don't believe it's going to be a mental block."

* LB Larry Foote, on the Steelers redeeming themselves against Baltimore after losing to them by a combined 58-7 score in two games last season: "In their heads, they had in the back of their minds what they did to us last year. So we stole some of that confidence back and we let them know that this is our division."

* WR Santonio Holmes had only the second 100-yard receiving game for the Steelers this season, both by him. He caught four passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns against Baltimore.

* WR Nate Washington had the first multiple touchdown game of his career. He caught three passes, two for touchdowns.

* QB Charlie Batch played in his fourth game but threw his first passes. He was 1 of 5 and also threw an interception.

* RB Willie Parker no longer leads the AFC in rushing after Baltimore held him to 42 yards on 23 carries on a rainy night. Parker had 768 yards.

* DE Travis Kirschke started for injured Aaron Smith on the left side, his second start in four seasons with the Steelers and his first since 2004.

* Browns OG Seth McKinney left the Seattle game with a shoulder injury. His status for the Steelers is in question. It's very possible the Browns would move Ryan Tucker inside to guard if McKinney can't play.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 9:10 a.m.

* The Browns played better than anyone expected them to in the first half of the season. On Sunday afternoon in Heinz Field they will learn just how much progress they and their upstart quarterback Derek Anderson have really made.

The Browns opened the season at home against the Steelers and were crushed, 34-7. Starting quarterback Charlie Frye didn't even make it to halftime. He was yanked midway through the second quarter and was traded two days later. Anderson replaced Frye and -- after a rocky effort against the Steelers -- has been nothing short of amazing.

"Derek Anderson is our MVP, hands down," said general manager Phil Savage.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 10:00 a.m.

* Before anyone inks in a 16-0 regular season for the Patriots and an eventual rematch with the Colts at Gillette Stadium in January, they might want to at least consider using a pencil with a working eraser.

After their Week 10 bye, the Patriots face the suddenly resurgent Bills in what is always a tough divisional road environment. That leads into New England's toughest three-game stretch of the season.

The trip to Buffalo is followed by a Sunday night game against Philadelphia and a Monday night tilt at Baltimore. Both are very winnable, but certainly not cakewalks. The Ravens game is followed by a short week leading into what promises to be an entertaining clash against Pittsburgh -- one of the few teams capable of derailing Colts-Patriots II in 11 weeks.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 9:35 a.m.

* DE Aaron Smith did not practice again Thursday and remains in question for Monday night's game. Smith missed his first game last week after playing in 115 in a row.

* FS Ryan Clark (spleen) has not practiced this week and likely will miss his second straight game. Anthony Smith will replace him.

* FB Dan Kreider practiced for the first time this week and is likely to play. Kreider's had some of his best games blocking against Ray Lewis and the Ravens.

* WR Santonio Holmes (bruised thigh) returned to practice and likely will start Monday. He leads the Steelers with 26 receptions and 426 yards.

* TE Jerame Tuman (back) did not practice and likely won't play. OT Max Starks will be used as the third tight end in blocking situations.

* Ravens CB Chris McAlister may miss Monday night's game vs. Steelers with a strained right knee. He had been optimistic about playing earlier but is yet to practice this week. Ravens coach Brian Billick seemed pessimistic about the Pro Bowl cornerback's chances of playing. He would be replaced by nickel back Corey Ivy.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 11:25 a.m.

* Dolphins defensive coordinator Dom Capers was put on the spot as he was repeatedly asked to defend the decision to bring linebacker Joey Porter to the Dolphins in the offseason. Porter hasn't made an impact, and has just 26 tackles and one sack in eight games, far below his annual production with the Steelers, when he averaged 68 tackles and over eight sacks a year since becoming a starter seven seasons ago.

"I did research on Joey. As you know, I have some people who I'm fairly close with there at Pittsburgh that I respect their opinions," said Capers, the Steelers' defensive coordinator from 1992-94. "I, obviously, spoke with them. Having played against him, I evaluated him in the defense there and stayed pretty familiar with their defense. I gave my input in terms of what I thought Joey was and what he could contribute."

Capers was asked to evaluate Porter's performance so far.

"I think he's played his best the last two or three games," Capers said. "I think there are a lot of factors in that -- coming into a new system, missing the large majority of training camp and all of the things that we're asking him to do. We ask him to play three different positions in our regular and our nickel and dime (packages), so there's a lot there in terms of what we ask him to do, but I think that he's progressed.

"I think he's most comfortable now with the things we're asking him to do. Hopefully, if he stays healthy, we think that he'll continue to be more productive because he has been more productive the last couple of weeks."

* The Steelers will hold a gala 75th anniversary celebration in Pittsburgh Sunday night, inviting many of their former players back for a grand party. Monday, they will introduce their all-time team of 33 players during halftime.

"I would imagine that it will provide a unique atmosphere at game time, one that we should be able to feed off of," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I would also like to think we don't need things to feed off of to play this game this week."

* Tomlin, asked if teams run up the score in the NFL, said he does not worry about such things.

"It's not their job to keep the score down; it's their opponent's job to keep the score down.

"I know if someone was running the score up on us, I would be concerned about what it is we're doing and not necessarily what it is that they're doing."

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 9:45 a.m.

* When the Ravens play at Pittsburgh on Monday night, it will match the top two defenses in the NFL. But the Ravens' defense likely won't be at full strength.

Cornerback Chris McAlister could miss a second straight game with a sprained knee, and defensive tackle Trevor Pryce could be limited to passing situations.

Pryce, who led the team last season with 13 sacks, has been sidelined for the past five games with a broken wrist. His left wrist is still in a cast -- which he referred to as "this protective mechanism" -- but he said that he is pain-free and won't be limited in what he can do on the field.

Coach Brian Billick said Pryce could split time with Dwan Edwards because of conditioning concerns. Pryce, who was injured in the second game of the season, hopes to have the cast removed in another week.

McAlister's availability is more uncertain.

Billick said before the bye that he was optimistic about McAlister returning for the Pittsburgh game. But McAlister did not suit up for the first two practices after the bye. He jogged in sweats off to the side.

* Tom Brady and Peyton Manning may be unanimous choices as the top two quarterbacks in the NFL, but Ben Roethlisberger is making a strong play for a trip to Hawaii with them after the season.

Roethlisberger has bounced back in a big way from his poor 2006 season. He looks like the quarterback who captivated the NFL in his first two seasons, only he's making even better decisions now.

He has 15 touchdown passes, three short of his career high for a full season, and six interceptions through seven games. His 102.2 passer rating is headed for a career high as well. And he may be the best at escaping a rush and completing a pass in the league.

Several times Sunday against Cincinnati, Roethlisberger shook off tacklers and completed a pass, sometimes with a tackler hanging onto him.

Coach Mike Tomlin called his performance against the Bengals "awesome."

"That's what Ben is, he makes plays out of the pocket," said Hines Ward, who caught his two TD passes Sunday. "It's something you can't coach, you can't teach, you just have to have a knack for it and Ben has a knack for doing that. He's making plays when plays break down. When you have a quarterback like that who can bail you out in certain situations, it's definitely a plus for your offense."

* RB Willie Parker had his fifth 100-yard game of the season with 126 yards on 22 carries and a 5.7-yard average. Parker leads the AFC in rushing with 726 yards and is only 14 yards off the NFL lead.

* WR Hines Ward's two TD passes Sunday were the 13th multiple scoring games of his 10-year career, including a game in which he ran for one TD and caught another. Ward needs two more touchdowns to tie John Stallworth's team record of 63.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger has thrown at least one TD pass in 12 straight games, and has topped 100 in passer rating five of seven times this season.

* WR Santonio Holmes took over the team lead with 26 receptions and 426 yards. Holmes ranks 11th among NFL receivers with an average of 16.4 yards a catch.

* TE Heath Miller has 24 receptions after seven games, on pace to shatter his career high of 39 set as a rookie in 2005.

* SS Troy Polamalu has not made many big plays in the Steelers defense compared to past seasons as the Steelers use more cover two defense. Polamalu has no sacks, one QB hurry and no interceptions.

* DE Aaron Smith might return to play against Baltimore, coach Mike Tomlin said. Smith missed last week's game with a sprained MCL.

* DE Brett Keisel continues to be the runaway leader on defense with 19 QB hurries/pressures, yet he does not have a sack.

* FB Dan Kreider, who sprained his ankle early and never returned last Sunday, has a chance to play Monday. Cincinnati was his second straight start.

* LB James Harrison is third on the team with 39 tackles, tied for third with three sacks and has a forced fumble and fumble recovery as Joey Porter's replacement.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 3:05 p.m.

* The Steelers signed second-year cornerback Anthony Madison back to their active roster, the team announced today.

Madison (5-9, 180) played in 12 games for the Steelers in 2006 after signing as a rookie free agent out of Alabama prior to the season. He was released by the team following training camp this year and spent a week with Tampa Bay during the first week of the season before being waived by the Buccaneers on Sept. 12.

Madison recorded three defensive tackles and 10 special teams tackles in 2006,

The Steelers made room on their roster for Madison by releasing fourth-year veteran cornerback Ricardo Colclough. Colclough (5-11, 195), the team's second round draft pick (38th overall) in the 2004 NFL Draft, played in three games this year and had one special teams tackle. For his career, he had one interception and 33 defensive tackles.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2:05 p.m.

* Baltimore has played without eight starters (quarterback Steve McNair, tight end Todd Heap, offensive tackles Jonathan Ogden and Adam Terry, center Mike Flynn, defensive tackle Trevor Pryce and cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle) at some point this season, which is one of the reasons for the team's disappointing 4-3 start.

But the Ravens should be at full strength for the first time since the season opener when they play at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. If the Ravens win, they would take over first place in the AFC North.

"Am I satisfied with 4-3? No, from an analytical standpoint," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Do I have to be because we are 4-3? Yeah, we are what we are. We earned the 4-3, both good and bad. Can we be optimistic about our future, in terms of who's coming back to us? Yeah, I'm pleased we're in that position, that we can play a game on Monday night for the lead in the division."

* The Steelers will celebrate their 75th Season in the NFL Monday by introducing their all-time team at the game with legends such as Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Lynn Swann, and John Stallworth on hand.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger has passed for 10,000 yards and needs only 53 to pass Bubby Brister (10,104) into fourth place in Steelers history.

* RB Willie Parker is on pace to gain 1,659 yards, close to Barry Foster's team record of 1,690.

* PK Jeff Reed made his first field goal in the past four games -- a 40-yarder -- against Cincinnati. His only attempt since he last made one Sept. 23 against San Francisco came when he missed from 65 yards at Denver.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 8:55 a.m.

* Regardless of which position he plays, the Bengals' Robert Geathers is a marked man. Though Geathers is the team's top pass rusher with 10.5 sacks in 2006, he was moved from defensive end to linebacker a few weeks ago and started the past two games at strong-side linebacker. He had eight tackles and broke up a pass at Kansas City and added three tackles against the Jets.

"He does a lot of things. A lot of focus has to be on him because he is such a good pass rusher, and now he's playing a different position," Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger said. "We just have to be aware of where he's at all the time and make sure that we try and get a big guy on him and block him because he can be very disruptive if he gets in space and gets a back on him."

* FS Ryan Clark (spleen) did not practice on Thursday and it looks as if he will not play. Anthony Smith would replace him as the starter.

* DE Aaron Smith (knee) did not practice and will not play Sunday in Cincinnati. Smith has played in 115 consecutive games, including playoffs.

* FB Dan Kreider, who earned his first start last week in Denver, could be in for more playing time as the Steelers move more to the ground against the Bengals.

* DE Nick Eason, who signed as a UFA from Cleveland this year, will make his first start on the left side for Aaron Smith.

* LB LaMarr Woodley, whose three sacks are tied for second on the team, should get more playing time as a pass-rusher this week because of his production and because of Smith's absence.

* On the Bengals front, RB Rudi Johnson (hamstring) did not practice for the second day in a row. He has missed of the last three games. The Bengals appear to be comfortable with Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey as their two running backs for the Steelers game.

* MLB Anthony Schlegel will start at middle linebacker in place of Ahmad Brooks, who is out for the fifth week in a row with a groin injury.

* WR Chad Johnson had a sore ankle Thursday and was held out of practice for the second Thursday in a row. He will play against the Steelers.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25, 9:55 a.m.

* The Steelers are in position to put the AFC North Division away over the next three weeks or let everyone else stay in it.

The first one they could help put away are the Bengals when they play in Cincinnati Sunday. A victory there -- the Steelers have won their past six games in Paul Brown Stadium -- and Pittsburgh would go to 5-2, three games ahead of the Bengals, who would fall to 2-5.

After that, the Steelers play home games against Baltimore (4-3) and Cleveland (3-3).

A loss in Cincinnati, though, not only would give the Bengals new life at just one game off the lead but Baltimore, who does not play this weekend, would tie for first with Pittsburgh and Cleveland would make it a three-way tie with a victory against winless St. Louis.

"Obviously it's early in the season for both teams, and it's a must-win for both of us," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "Regardless of the records and where we are in the standings right now, both teams need this win. I'm sure both teams are going to come out with kind of a desperate-type play and backs against the wall and do everything we can to win the football game."

* After starting 116 consecutive games, Bengals RT Willie Anderson is out for the second time in three games. He will not play against the Steelers because of a knee injury.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25, 12:30 a.m.

* Heath Miller suffered cuts on his chin and nose during practice Wednesday when his helmet got jammed into his face.

Miller returned to the team's practice facility after going to receive stitches. He should be fine to play Sunday at Cincinnati.

* Some are saying Troy Polamalu is doing too much free-lancing. His teammates have apparently heard the news.

After picking off a Charlie Batch deep ball by making a great break on the pass and coming out of nowhere to make the pick, Polamalu was razzed by his teammates. "Way to freelance Troy."

* Ryan Clark looked like death warmed over today when he showed up in the locker room and admitted he has a long way to go before he's ready to play Sunday at Cincinnati.

Clark is a classy person and a great all-around guy. The sickle cell trait that he carries caused the trouble with his spleen and is something he'll have to live with the rest of his life. It's a problem for him to play at high altitudes, something he now has learned.

The good news is, as Clark put it, "At least I didn't sign with Denver as a free agent."

The bad news? Though Clark's two sons have tested negative for the sickle cell trait, his daughter tested postive. That's got to be tough on a parent. (--D.L.)

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 11:20 a.m.

* It's Steelers Week in Cincinnati. And though Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tries to discount the game as just another one within the AFC North division, his players know it's special. Pittsburgh is the Bengals' primary rival.

Is the rivalry nasty or fun?

"It's both," Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton said Monday. "Here it's (nastier) because we haven't won. There it's fun because we always win up there. We have to change that around."

The Steelers are one of the NFL's most physical teams. They traditionally have a strong defense and prefer to run the ball offensively.

"We really have to put those big-boy pads on this week, so to speak," Thornton said. "It's not going to be a finesse game. It's not going to be a team throwing it around."

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24, 10:35 a.m.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger is off to the fastest start of his career with 13 touchdown passes. He had six after his first six games last season when he finished with 18 and nine after his first six games of 2005 when he finished with 17 after missing four full games.

* RB Willie Parker averages 100 yards a game rushing after six games but his average-per game continues to drop at 4.2.

* RB Najeh Davenport carried only two times Sunday night yet his average is 7.2 yards a carry as the backup and third-down back.

* WR Hines Ward led the Steelers with seven receptions Sunday night and 78 yards in his first game back after missing the previous two. He still has just 186 yards this season, third on the team.

* WR Santonio Holmes' average, the highest in the league after six weeks, dropped below 20 to 17.0.

* TE Jerame Tuman, who missed the last game with a back problem, should return to play this week.

* SS Troy Polamalu is being criticized for not making more plays this season. Polamalu is eighth on the team in tackles and leads them with seven passes defensed.

* LB Larry Foote, who led the Steelers in tackles during their Super Bowl season of 2005, is fifth this season and ranks fourth among the starting linebackers. He does lead the team with two forced fumbles and has a sack and interception.

* LB LaMarr Woodley may get more playing time, coach Mike Tomlin said, after he recorded his third sack in what have been brief appearances during his rookie season.

* TE Heath Miller leads the Steelers with 22 receptions. He caught 39 as a rookie in 2005, his career high.

* TE Matt Spaeth caught his third touchdown pass in his rookie season. He missed two games with an injury.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 12:20 p.m.

* The Steelers will announce the members of their All-Time Team for the first time on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at 5:30 p.m. in the Coca-Cola Great Hall at Heinz Field.

* Pittsburgh's defense, ranked No. 1 in the NFL after five games, took a big hit to its reputation Sunday night in Denver.

That was Jay Cutler throwing against them and he did just about anything he wanted except for two interceptions. Cutler had just four touchdowns through five games before he faced the Steelers; now he has seven. He did it without injured Javon Walker, who scored three times in a 31-20 win at Pittsburgh last year.

The question for the Steelers is, what happens when they face Carson Palmer of the Bengals in Cincinnati Sunday if Cutler can do that to them?

"We need to stop people on third down and we didn't do that," linebacker Larry Foote said.

The Steelers had not allowed a touchdown in the first half of its first five games and Denver scored three of them -- one on a fumble return after Ben Roethlisberger was sacked and lost the ball.

Cutler completed 22 of 29 for 248 yards and three touchdowns; his first a 15-yard scoring toss on third-and-9 that tied the game after the Steelers went up 7-0 on its first drive.

"You can't win in this league if you keep giving them more possessions," Foote said. "Cincinnati's going to watch this game and try to do some similar things."

* Steelers coach Mike Tomlin ran his record to 0-2 on replay challenges this season. He quickly challenged a pass to Hines Ward that was ruled incomplete, even though a quick replay showed Ward clearly trapped the ball.

* Pittsburgh lost three turnovers, the most this season. The Steelers entered the game with only five turnovers. "We said we dug ourselves a hole and we had to stop digging," Tomlin said about the three turnovers, all in the first half.

* DE Aaron Smith left in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. Sources say he should be OK.

* TE Heath Miller caught five passes, two for TDs, and leads the Steelers with 22 receptions and tied with four scores.

* PK Jeff Reed's miss of a 65-yard field-goal try was his first miss on the road after making 19 straight, including playoffs, back to 2005.

* LB LaMarr Woodley did not play much but the rookie had his third sack of the season, tied for third on the team.

* LB James Harrison had the only other sack Sunday and led the team with nine tackles and one quarterback hurry.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 10:00 a.m.

* Denver Broncos WR Javon Walker will have an operation today in Houston and will be out "for a few weeks," coach Mike Shanahan said Thursday.

Shanahan didn't have a precise timetable for Walker's return and said he wasn't sure what the procedure entailed.

"Doctors don't think it's very serious, but serious enough to go in there and clean it out because he's been off of it for a few weeks and it hasn't gotten much better," Shanahan said.

Walker smoked Steelers CB Ike Taylor for 134 yards and two TDs on six catches in Pittsburgh's loss to Denver last season.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19, 9:20 a.m.

* NT Casey Hampton practiced on Thursday for the first time this week and will return to start in Denver, although Chris Hoke likely will sub for him a lot. Hampton missed the last game Oct. 7 with a hamstring injury.

* Hines Ward has practiced all week and will return to start Sunday. Ward missed the last two games with a sprained knee. He's missed just five games in his 10-year career.

* SS Troy Polamalu practiced all week and will return to start after missing the past game with torn rib cartilage. Polamalu leads the Steelers with five passes defensed.

* WR Santonio Holmes practiced all week and will return to start after missing the past game with a torn rib cartilage. Holmes averages 20.4 yards on his 14 receptions, the only receiver in the league over 20 with as many as 14 catches.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 18, 12:30 p.m.

* Coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers will have a machine to stimulate "blood flow" on the sideline in Denver. Dr. Jack Daniels, head distance coach at the Center for High Altitude in Flagstaff, Ariz., said he's never heard of such a thing.

"I don't know what he's talking about," Daniels said. "It generates blood flow? To do that, your heart has to beat harder or faster -- that's the only way you can transport more blood because the heart does all the work. I don't know of any machine that will stimulate your heart faster or stronger."

* Although they won the AFC Championship Game in Denver two years ago, the Steelers believe it's among the toughest places to play.

"It definitely is," Roethlisberger said. "I'm hoping that most of the fans will be home watching the Rockies or something. It definitely is a difficult place to play. I know a couple of years ago there were a lot of Steelers fans there, and hopefully it will be the same way this time. It's not going to be easy by any means."

* BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Running backs who have gained 100 yards against the Steelers in the past 55 games.

* QUOTE TO NOTE: "You can dog somebody for 75 plays, but if you get beat for one, that's the only one people remember." -- LT Marvel Smith, who has not allowed a sack this season.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 10:00 p.m.

* While everyone save Casey Hampton and Jerame Tuman were back on the practice field today, part of the story of practice was right tackle Willie Colon's short skrimmish with cornerback Allen Rossum.

During the team portion of the afternoon workout, Colon went after Rossum following a play, shoving the smaller man and causing teammates to jump in between the two.

A number of players yelled at Colon – who has shown a short temper in the past – over the incident, most notably defensive end Brett Keisel who yelled at him, "That's f-ing stupid Willie. You'll get yourself thrown out of a game for that stuff."

Defensive end Aaron Smith was overheard explaining that it was part of the bye-week hangover as the players are growing tired of going against each other and want an opponent instead. (--D.L.)

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 9:40 a.m.

* Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin expects at least three of his four injured starters to return to play in Denver Sunday night and there's a chance the fourth will start as well.

Starting wide receivers Hines Ward (sprained knee) and Santonio Holmes (hamstring) along with strong safety Troy Polamalu (ribs) will return. Ward, who missed the past two games, will practice today.

"Hines Ward is fine," Tomlin said.

Polamalu and Holmes, who missed one game each, were not even on Tomlin's injury list. Polamalu had cartilage separate from his ribs in a Sept. 30 game at Arizona. Holmes missed the Seattle game Oct. 7 when his hamstring was injured during pre-game warm-ups.

The one starter Tomlin is not sure about is Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton. He pulled his hamstring in the second half at Arizona and missed the last game. Tomlin said he will be limited in practice Wednesday and will be monitored as the week goes along. He said he's "hopeful" Hampton will play.

Backup tight end Jerame Tuman has had back spasms that may limit him in practice and No. 3 cornerback Bryant McFadden remains doubtful with a high ankle sprain. McFadden missed the last game after his injury at Arizona.

* QB Ben Roethlisberger's 81.8 completion percentage in his last game, a 21-0 victory against Seattle, was his highest in a year or since he had an 84.2 against Kansas City Oct. 15, 2006.

* RB Willie Parker led the NFL before the bye week with 507 yards rushing. He's now sixth.

* TE Heath Miller leads the team with 17 receptions and is off to his fastest start in three seasons as a pro. He had 10 catches in the first five games of his two previous seasons.

* WR Santonio Holmes leads the NFL with an average of 20.4 yards per catch among any receiver who has caught at least 14 receptions.

* RB Najeh Davenport is not expected to be disciplined by the league after he was charged in a minor domestic dispute.

* DE Brett Keisel does not have a sack, but his 15 quarterback pressures leads the team by six.

* LB James Farrior never did get credit for a half-sack the Steelers wanted to credit him with from their Oct. 7 game against Seattle. He officially had two sacks that day and leads the team with four overall.

* LB Clark Haggans is second on the team with 3.5 sacks and with nine quarterback pressures and has played so well that he has kept rookie LaMarr Woodley on the bench for the most part.

* CB Ike Taylor is back to playing as well as he did in 2005, before he was benched last November. Still, he has not shadowed an opponent's best receiver as he often did in 2005.

* S Anthony Smith does not start, but he ranks eighth on the team with 19 defensive tackles. Smith did start at free safety in the last game because Ryan Clark replaced injured Troy Polamalu at strong safety.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 12:15 p.m.

* Former Steelers DE Derrick Jones (Grand Valley State) and LB Rian Wallace (Temple) had tryouts with the Atlanta Falcons Saturday.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 9:10 a.m.

* RB Najeh Davenport has done a good job as a backup to Willie Parker and on third downs this season. He has 209 yards rushing and a 7.5-yard average.

"Najeh is a situational sparkplug for us," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He does a lot of things well. He's sneaky fast, he's a big guy, he can catch the ball, he's good on blitz pickup. The roles are starting to define themselves. But again, we're just kind of letting it happen naturally. We're doing what we need to do to win ballgames."

* CB Ike Taylor has rebounded nicely since former coach Bill Cowher benched him last November. Taylor was named the NFL defensive player of the week last week.

"Show me more, show me more," was coach Mike Tomlin's reaction. "We're just beginning to scratch the surface of what he's capable of."

* PK Jeff Reed has not missed a kick. He is 9-for-9 on field-goal tries and 15-for-15 on extra points. Also, opponents are averaging 23.7 yards on his 23 kickoffs.

* LB Lawrence Timmons has not played many snaps on defense this season, but the top rookie pick leads the Steelers special teams with six solo tackles and seven overall.

* And looking at this week's opponent, Denver CB Champ Bailey has a quadriceps injury and didn't practice before the bye or the Monday the team returned, but the Broncos don't have any concern about his availability for this week's game against Pittsburgh.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 15, 10:00 p.m.

* Mike Tomlin will give an official injury update Tuesday at noon, but if it's like any of his previous, we really won't learn too much.

Here's what I'm hearing about the Steelers' injuries:

Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes should be good to go at Denver. Ward has missed the team's past two games with a sprained knee, while Holmes strained a hamstring during warm-ups prior to the team's game against Seattle.

Casey Hampton and his hamstring injury should be ready to go, but the team will take it easy with him this week, hoping he can practice by Friday.

The team will be cautious with Troy Polamalu and Bryant McFadden, knowing that it has Cincinnati coming up in two weeks.

Polamalu wants to play badly, despite having torn cartilage in his ribcage. The injury is a painful one and though it's not career-threatening or anything like that, it is something that could cause him to miss more games if aggravated.

McFadden, meanwhile, has been nursing a high ankle sprain suffered at Arizona. It's gotten better, but again, the team would definitely like to have him ready to go when it plays Cincinnati and may hold him out another week. (--D.L.)

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12, 8:55 a.m.

* When LB Joey Porter was with the Steelers, he was 11-3 against the Cleveland Browns and had six sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in those 14 games. Porter was 6-0 against the Browns with TE Kellen Winslow on the team, but the oft-injured Winslow only played in the two last season. While its no longer a division game, Porter and his new team, the Miami Dolphins, face off against Winslow and the Browns this week, so of course Porter's talking. Some things never change.

"It really hasn't been a war. It's been one-sided. I've never lost to him. You've got to win some to make it a war. If you get whipped four times in a row it's not a war," said Porter of Winslow, who he's had an ongoing feud with.

"He's a receiver really. He's not a tight end. He's not going to block nobody. If you ask me who is going to win the Joey Porter-Kellen Winslow battle, it's me hands down because he's not going to stop me from doing anything I want to do."

* The Steelers are playing better in the secondary to go with their stepped-up pass rush, and have not allowed many big plays -- no pass completions longer than 38 yards and only four completions of 25 yards or longer against them.

* CB Bryant McFadden, out last week with a high ankle sprain he suffered Sept. 30, believes he could be ready to play in the next game at Denver.

* CB William Gay, a rookie, has replaced Bryant McFadden as the No. 3 cornerback over four-year vet Ricardo Colclough.

* NT Chris Hoke, who replaced Casey Hampton in the starting lineup last week, is being used more this season. He comes in during passing situations when they use four down linemen, something new this season.

* LT Marvel Smith is back playing at a Pro Bowl level after a slightly off season. His coaches have been singing his praises.

* S Ryan Clark played one of his best games last Sunday. He moved from his starting job at free safety to replace injured Troy Polamalu at strong safety.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11, 9:33 a.m.

* Pittsburgh has fielded some great defenses through the years, including the Steel Curtain of the 1970s and Blitzburgh of the mid-1990s. But none of those was able to accomplish what the 2007 version has done through five games.

The Steelers have yielded only 47 points, the fewest any Pittsburgh team has allowed in the first five games in the past 70 years. They have to go all the way back to 1937, when scoring did not occur nearly as often, to find a Steelers team that allowed fewer -- 38 in the first five games that season.

* The Steelers weren't happy they had converted only 40 percent of their trips to the red zone into touchdowns before Sunday. Against Seattle, they were three-for-three, including TD drives of 80 and 85 yards in the second half.

"That was how we used to do things, just grind it out non-stop and let people know we're doing it," guard Alan Faneca said. "So that was fun."

* Mike Tomlin is fast becoming known for his notable quotes. Here's one on how close any of the four injured starters, who did not suit up last Sunday, might have been to playing in that game:

"Horse shoes and hand grenades on how close they were. It didn't matter. They weren't able to go, so we went without them."

* The Steelers have controlled the ball on average better than 10 minutes over their opponents this season, 35:12 vs. 24:48. In the second half against Seattle Sunday, they had it for 24:53 of the 30 minutes.

"Even when the clock stopped, it seemed like our offense had the ball for about an hour or something," linebacker Clark Haggans said.

* To replace the injured Troy Polamalu, the Steelers shifted Ryan Clark to strong safety, a position he played for the Washington Redskins before he signed with the team as an unrestricted free agent last year. Second-year man Anthony Smith started at free safety.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 11:45 a.m.

* Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

* In case you missed it, the Arizona Cardinals have released center Chukky Okobi and signed … former Steelers guard Keydrick Vincent.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 9:45 a.m.

* The Steelers won four of their first five games but earned no off time during their off week. New coach Mike Tomlin has given them only one day off this week, Friday, as required by union rules.

Tuesday, he put them through a two-hour practice in full pads, although he did go lightly on many veteran starters and pushed the younger players harder. They will practice again on Wednesday and Thursday.

During the Bill Cowher era, players would have had off Monday, Tuesday Friday and would not have had to return until the following Tuesday. Tomlin wants them back Monday.

"We bought into it," said offensive captain Hines Ward. "Guys went out there and worked. It was hot out there, full pads, lot of hitting going on. At the same time it was some great quality work for the younger guys to get in because they haven't seen reps since training camp."

* QB Ben Roethlisberger can break the Steelers' record for consecutive completions, set by Bubby Brister at 15 in 1989. Roethlisberger completed Sunday's game with 13 in a row.

* TE Heath Miller's second TD reception of the season gives tight ends five of the nine scoring catches by the Steelers this season.

* WR Santonio Holmes said he injured his hamstring on his final warm-up run before the game against Seattle Sunday. He did not play, but said he will play in Denver.

* RB Najeh Davenport's 209 yards rushing are just a dozen short of his entire total from 2006. He averages 7.5 yards a carry on 28 tries.

* DE Brett Keisel still does not have a sack, but his 15 quarterback pressures/hurries are way out in front of his teammates and ahead of his team-leading pace of 23 all last season.

* LB James Farrior had 2.5 sacks Sunday to lead the team with 4.5. He also has seven QB hurries, three passes defensed, a team-high 37 tackles and one forced fumble.

* LB Clark Haggans has been revived this season. He has 3.5 sacks, after mustering six all last season, and nine quarterback pressures, three more than he had all last year.

* CB Bryant McFadden, the No. 3 cornerback, may be the only injured Steeler not to return to play against Denver. His high ankle sprain kept him out of last Sunday's game.

* FB Dan Kreider, replaced as the longtime starter by Carey Davis, got his most extensive playing time in the I formation last Sunday.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 10:35 a.m.

* Former Steelers Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll was introduced before Sunday's game to a standing ovation at Heinz Field. Noll, the only coach to win four Super Bowls, has not made public appearances the past several years. He has back problems and walked with a cane Sunday.

"I took a moment to go over and shake his hand and introduce myself," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I was in awe of the man. We are all walking on the ground that he paved."

* After each of his two touchdowns Sunday, former Packer Najeh Davenport leaped into the Heinz Field end-zone stands. Davenport labeled it the "Heinz Field Hop" and said it's been patented.

* Last week, QB Ben Roethlisberger threw to TE Heath Miller in the end zone and his pass was intercepted, a turning point in Arizona's 21-14 victory. Sunday he again looked to Miller and the big TE caught it for a 13-yard TD.

"If he's single covered, I'm going to go to him," Roethlisberger said.

* The Steelers played Cover-2 much of the game and rushed only three, and that seemed to hassle Matt Hasselbeck. He was just 13 of 27 for 116 yards and no TDs. CB Ike Taylor picked him off at the goal line on the last play of the first half. Hasselbeck, who had a 44.7 passer rating, was yanked with seven minutes left in the game.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 9:30 a.m.

* Casey Hampton didn't dress for Sunday's game against the Seahawks, but the big NT was suited and booted Monday evening when he co-captained the Steelers Style 2007 fashion show. Check out Big Snack and company in this photo gallery from Steelers.com.

* Former Steelers LT Wayne Gandy's career is probably over after the 14-year veteran suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late in the Falcons' loss at Tennessee. Gandy had an MRI exam Monday morning and is expected to have surgery in a week to 14 days. Gandy played in 212 games with the Los Angeles Rams, Steelers, New Orleans Saints and Falcons.

* WR Cedrick Wilson, who had just one reception in the first four games, made his first start Sunday and led the Steelers with five catches for 69 yards.

* CB Ike Taylor dropped two interceptions on otherwise good defensive plays before he came up with a big interception on the goal line on the last play of the first half Sunday. "He delivered for us today," coach Mike Tomlin said. It was his second interception of the season.

* LB James Farrior, who leads the Steelers in tackles, now leads them in sacks as well. He has 4.5 (officially 4, but that will soon be corrected by NFL statisticians) after getting two sacks Sunday.

* PR/KR Allen Rossum, acquired in a trade with Atlanta before the season began, continues to do little on punt returns. He fumbled two Sunday, although he lost neither, and he has a 4.2-yard average on 13 returns.

* TE Matt Spaeth returned to the lineup after missing two games with a bruised thigh. No passes were thrown to the rookie, who had two TD catches in the first two games.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 8, 10:00 a.m.

* Some quick Steelers notes on a Monday morning:

* QB Ben Roethlisberger continues to play well after his poor 2006. He's thrown nine TDs, three interceptions and has a 99.2 passer rating.

* RB Najeh Davenport has rushed for three touchdowns, all but one of the team total. Willie Parker has the other.

* K Jeff Reed has not attempted a field goal in the past two games after he had led the league in scoring three weeks into the season. He is 9 for 9.

* RB Willie Parker has run for 100 yards in four of five games. He's off to his fastest start with 507 rushing yards.

* TE Heath Miller took over the team lead with 17 receptions, mostly because Hines Ward (14) has missed the past two games with a knee sprain.

* The Steelers provided the Seahawks with their first shutout since the first game of the 2000 season, 115 games ago. Not only were the Seahawks outscored 21-0, they were out-gained 342-144, and the Steelers owned a massive time of possession advantage of 40:45 to 19:15.

* Mike Tomlin hopes to welcome back all of his injured players after the Steelers take off this weekend and return to play at Denver Oct. 21.

Pro Bowl defenders strong safety Troy Polamalu and nose tackle Casey Hampton, along with both starting receivers, Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, did not play yesterday in Pittsburgh's 21-0 victory over Seattle at home.

* They still dominated the Seahawks in their first Heinz Field shutout and ran their record to 4-1 for only the third time in the past 25 years. The stretch after their bye week was supposed to be their most difficult, but some opponents have not played up to their preseason stature.

After Denver, the Steelers play at Cincinnati and have games against Baltimore, Cleveland, the Jets, Miami and Cincinnati again before a Dec. 9 date at New England.

* The Steelers defense under coordinator Dick LeBeau has not allowed a touchdown in the first half of games this season. The 47 points allowed are the fewest in their first five games in 70 years. Even their Steel Curtain defenses in the 1970s could not come close to that.

* Quotebook:

"We ain't done nothing yet, really," offense tackle Marvel Smith said. "All we did is create an opportunity for ourselves, and we have to take advantage of it. When we look back at the end of the season, we'll see how much 4-1 played out."

"They don't put asterisks beside wins and losses," Tomlin said. "Regardless of who's playing, we are the Pittsburgh Steelers."


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