Young bucks coming on strong

Craig Wolfley worked the sideline in Cincinnati for the Steelers Radio Network and he's pleased to report on the emergence of some of the Steelers young players. Read more.

Most gratifying from an old guy's perspective is watching young bucks, particularly undrafted ones, find their way in the NFL. Darnell Stapleton is finding his way, and learning, with each and every play.

Early in the game, Darnell locked horns with Bengals pass rusher, DT John Thornton, who got late pressure to the inside because Darnell was late with his right hand to the hip of Thornton. Later in the game, Thornton tried the same move, but Stapleton learned from the previous encounter and slammed the door on Thornton; stuffed him like a turkey on Thanksgiving.

Later in the game, when Mewelde Moore ran into the end zone on the counter play that has Darnell pulling on a search and destroy mission, the Bengals' outside contain man tried to close the trap. This play was designed to go inside Darnell's block. When the Bengals defender closed hard, Darnell logged, or used his inside shoulder to turn the man inside, and Moore read the block and cruised outside for the touchdown. That's adjusting on the move, and it takes experience. Stapleton handled that play like an old pro.

Speaking of young bucks learning, Lawrence Timmons crushed people yesterday. Bengals RB Kenny Watson was the "mulch-ee," and Timmons the "mulch-er" in a couple of close encounters of the high velocity kind that were absolutely Silverback-ish in their ferocity. Watson looked helpless trying to pick Timmons up on the blitz. Timmons still has a lot of work to do in the run game, as you could see in some of the dime packages where Timmons replaced Larry Foote. Larry is still better against the run. But Sir Lawrence of Timmons is pushing hard and heavy for more playing time.

Speaking of the Silverback, or James Harrison, Bengal OT Levi Jones looked like a French tank on a peace-keeping mission, in full reverse all day long. Rarely do you see such physical dominance. Harrison has such a good bull rush, he's hard to stop. He aims his helmet right into the chin of an opponent, and then climbs said opponent with those powerful hindquarters a churning. The only time I saw Jones moving forward was coming out of the huddle.

Max Starks had himself a pretty good game. He did a nice job all day long. It's good to see him contribute, and while talking with him afterwards, it was plain to see that he was thrilled with getting back on the field. I don't think he gave up a corner pressure the entire game. The left side seems a better fit for Max, especially when you're left-handed. Things just feel more natural.

Hines Ward. Wow, what a crusher hit on Keith Rivers. Clean hit all the way from my perspective. There's a reason that rooks are told from the first day they check into the NFL to "Keep your head on a swivel." There were some Bengal coaches who were heard to be yelling "Ask 86 (Ward) if he's happy now!" at the end of the game. And to be sure Hines was a marked man, as he always is, for the rest of the game. Frostee Rucker took a run at Hines a few plays later when Ward caught a pass and was fighting for extra yardage. Rucker came like a heat-seeking missile right at Hines, who ducked just in time. Rucker caught a downdraft and crushed himself as he flew over the pile. But there was no mistaking the intent. It will be interesting to see what the Commish decides to do with this one. But if they keep watering down the league with these fines, it won't be long before the NFL stands for the National Flag-Football League.

Najeh Davenport is a load. Watching him from my vantage point on kickoff returns, I can really appreciate just how punishing a runner he is. He hurts people. He does a great job of attacking the attacker. When a collision is imminent, Najeh seems to kick it into a higher gear and go after the guy trying to tackle him. It's kind of like watching a bizzaro Wild Kingdom TV show where the Gazelle goes after the Lion somewhere on the Serengeti.

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