Steelers' opponents just don't hold

PITTSBURGH – Casey Hampton goes up against Kevin Mawae this week in Tennessee, and Hampton knows a little bit about the Pro Bowl center for the Titans.

"He's crafty," Hampton said. "He holds, knows the little tricks."

But Hampton doesn't expect Mawae to be called for holding. And why should he? The Steelers haven't drawn an offensive holding call in 24 quarters. The last was called on Washington Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels in the fourth quarter of the Nov. 3 game.

In that span, the Steelers have been called for offensive holding eight times. Every member of the offensive line except Chris Kemoeatu has been flagged during that stretch, as have two tight ends and wide receiver Hines Ward – twice.

"We don't get held," Hampton said with a straight face. "That's the bottom line. They don't hold us."

Even Hampton himself has been called for holding more in the past six games – once – than the Steelers' opposition.

"I'm telling you, we don't get held, man," he said. "I mean, they play their best game against us every week. They just block us so well. They never hold us."

As the group of reporters surrounding Hampton began to laugh, the big man held his deadpan.

"They're great athletes. They get their hands inside and do their job," he said.

Chris Hoke laughed about his teammate's comments. So did Aaron Smith.

"I don't even know what holding is anymore," Smith said. "Look at what they're doing to James Harrison. They've got one guy holding him by the neck and another guy holding his legs. I guess I don't have a true understanding of what's holding."

Neither, apparently, do the officials. TV replays last Sunday once again picked up an opposing left tackle holding Harrison around the neck as the Steelers' star pass rusher came low and hard around the corner.

"I'll let the ref know after the play that I'm being held," said Harrison. "But he'll say ‘Well, it's so-and-so's job,' or ‘It's this guy's job.' I even had a guy look me dead in the face, that saw me getting yanked down, and I asked him for the hold call and he just dropped his head and looked away like I wasn't even talking to him.

"I don't like it, but if they don't call it, there's nothing I can do about it. I can complain or whatever, but it's not going to help. It hasn't helped me the last two, three weeks."

Harrison didn't get a sack against the Ravens on Sunday and fell behind DeMarcus Ware in the NFL race by five.

Harrison, who has 15 sacks, also trails Joey Porter (17) and John Abraham (15.5), but his 94 tackles, seven forced fumbles and an interception that makes him the top contender for the Defensive Player of the Year Award, according to Colts Coach Tony Dungy.

"If I had to vote right now, I'd vote for James Harrison," Dungy told Sirius Radio yesterday. "He's like a Randy Moss or Dwight Freeney. You have to game plan for him in terms of how you're going to block him in the passing game. So he puts that on the table even before the game starts, and then he does other things: He drops in pass coverage, covers tight ends. They move him around and he's not just a one-dimensional pass rusher. He's a linebacker that also rushes and he's been the most dominant player on the best defense in football, and, shoot, by next Sunday they may have the best record in football."

Even though no one's holding them.

NOTES – Undrafted free agent Patrick Bailey was voted by writers the winner of the team's Joe Greene Great Performance Award, or Rookie of the Year, for his 12 special teams tackles. … Ryan Clark was voted winner of The Chief Award for his cooperation with the media. … Clark missed Wednesday's practice with a foot injury. Also sitting out were Harrison (foot), Troy Polamalu (foot), LT Marvel Smith (back) and LaMarr Woodley (knee). Held out of practice for a rest were Willie Parker, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward. … Aaron Smith was voted AFC Defensive Player of the Week by the NFL.

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