Notebook: Good luck charm in lineup

Chris Hoke is tough to beat as the starting nose tackle. Also, did Rashard Mendenhall really boast to Ray Rice in a text? He says he didn't. And what's Hines Ward thinking as tough-talking Bart Scott comes to town?

PITTSBURGH – James Farrior will miss the large posterior of Casey Hampton in front of him Monday night, but the Steelers' defensive captain knows that Hampton's replacement has been a good luck charm for the team.

"Hokie's 15-2," Farrior said.

Not quite, but close. Does anyone know the right record?

"Hokie knows the record when Hokie starts," said Aaron Smith.

Does Chris Hoke know the Steelers' regular-season record when he starts at nose tackle?

"Eleven and two?" Hoke said.

Nope. It's 11-1.

"Oh, 11-1, that's the regular season," Hoke said. "We lost one in the playoffs with me."

That would be the 2004 AFC playoffs with a win against the Jets and a loss to the Patriots. The loss ended an 11-0 overall run for Hoke. The Steelers then lost in 2006 with Hoke starting against the Raiders.

"But they only gained 98 yards," Hoke said.

"A loss is a loss," Smith said. "A loss is a loss."

It was Hoke's last loss. His only start last season was the 21-0 shutout of the Seahawks.

"Hey," Hoke said. "I'm not going to go in there and try to make anyone forget about Casey. I just want to go in and keep the seat warm. I feel strongly that I can get the job done."

Won't the additional loss of defensive end Brett Keisel make that difficult?

"I don't think so," Hoke said. "Look at the film from last week: Travis did a great job. He played really well up front."

Travis Kirschke replaced Keisel last week and figures to hold the job until Keisel returns from a torn calf muscle. Keisel expects to return Oct. 19 at Cincinnati.


On Friday, James Walker, an reporter who was in Pittsburgh for the week, reported that rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall had texted Ravens running back Ray Rice and that Mendenhall boasted he would have "a big day" in his first career start against a Ravens defense that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 games, the NFL's longest current streak.

Ravens linebacker Bart Scott told Walker that the text message had been posted on the Ravens' bulletin board.

The maneuver surprised those who've dealt with the quiet and humble Mendenhall this year. So it was no surprise when Walker updated his story on Saturday that Mendenhall denied doing it.

"That was news to me," Mendenhall said. "Everybody that knows me knows that's not my style."

According to Walker, Mendenhall told the visiting Monday Night Football crew that he "had nothing to do with it."

Steelers backup center Darnell Stapleton, a college teammate of Rice, said in the middle of the week that "I talked to (Rice) the other day. He's talking his regular smack. He's confident in himself and confident in his team."

Of course, Stapleton didn't feel the need to type up Rice's comment and post it on the bulletin board.


Scott can't get enough of the trash talk game and that might be one of the reasons Hines Ward laid him out cold with a clean block in last year's 38-7 Steelers win at Heinz Field. After the game, Ward told that

"(Scott) tackled me and said he was going to kill me. But as long as you don't shoot me, I'll be fine."

On his radio show later in the week, Scott said, "It's not an idle threat. It's a promise. I'm coming after Hines." And the next day in the Baltimore Sun said, "I threatened him. And if I see him again, I'm going to threaten him again."

Ward sat out the meaningless finale in Baltimore with a sore knee. Monday will be the first meeting between the players since the threat.

"If I get a chance to hit him, I'll hit him," Ward said. "I'm not going to back away. Same with him. I know he's going to try to hit me. Am I worried about seeing him outside of football and getting killed? No. On the field, however he decides to play, so be it. I'm not going to be intimidated by a linebacker who's mad because a wide receiver hit him. To me, that's unheard of."

Jim Wexell's new book "Steeler Nation: A Pittsburgh Team, An American Phenomenon" is available at

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