"I don't know why y'all ask me that. You know I'm not going to retract my statements," Flowers said. "I think we both talk a lot."

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"I don't know why y'all ask me that. You know I'm not going to retract my statements," Flowers said. "I think we both talk a lot."

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Steelers Have Edge If Things Get Dirty

<p>They sneak up on guys like Lee Flowers because they're looking for tape-recorder gold.</p> <p>"Uh, Lee, could you comment on your comments after the last game?" one Cleveland reporter asked.</p> <p>"I don't know why y'all ask me that. You know I'm not going to retract my statements," Flowers said. "I think we both talk a lot."</p>

Amen. But the Steelers' designated pulse-taker turned serious when asked a deadly serious question.

Lee, will this game get dirty?

"I don't know," he said. "I'm being honest with you. I thought the last game we played was going to be a dirty game, being that we talked so much the first game. But it was a pretty clean game, you know, that you guys could see. We don't know. If they want to play a dirty game, so be it."

Who would have the advantage?

"Us. All day long. I mean, they don't have nobody on their offense - other than chopping you - that can play dirty. Our offense is dirty guys. Ask Tampa. Warren Sapp will tell you how dirty our offense is."

So, of course, will Earl Little. A few plays after threatening to kill Hines Ward in a 2001 game, Little, the Browns' free safety, was carried off the field, out cold.

"We don't play dirty," said Ward, known as one of the more physical wide receivers in the game. "But if you want to smash-mouth and be a physical defense and play that type of game, we have the guys to do that. I mean, we have (Alan) Faneca and myself and Wayne Gandy and Fu (Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala) and Jerome (Bettis) and those guys. I mean, if that's the type of game you want to play, we can play that game. We're going to play that game anyway. The loser goes home so you want to let it all out right now."

How ugly and dirty will this game get?

"As ugly as you want it to get," Ward said. "Like I said, the loser goes home. They're going to lay it all on the line and we're not going to hold back. I know I'm not. I'm going to go out there and do everything I can to help us win a ballgame."

Oh, and Flowers wanted to clear something up.

"Let me leave this Tampa thing alone, man. If I keep messing around with that I'll be in that damn division next year. Let me leave Tampa alone. But I think this is going to be a clean game. They've done such a good job by getting to the playoffs; those guys are just excited to be here right now."

FULL CIRCLE

Last year, Fuamatu-Ma'afala rushed for 453 yards in the final six regular-season games and 30 yards in the playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens. Upon the return of a rusty, still-hobbled Bettis, Fu did not carry the ball against New England.

This year, Fu has reverted to his previous, injury-plagued ways but flashed fresh legs and his brand of powerful inside running to gain 49 yards on 8 carries. He also caught a pass for 6 yards.

With a still-hobbled Bettis again being given a chance to return to the starting lineup in the playoffs, do the Steelers make the same decision as last post-season? Bettis, of course, gained only 8 yards on 9 carries in the loss to the Patriots.

"It could be the same situation but Jerome seems fine," said Fu, who added that he doesn't know what the coaches have in store for him today.

"Even last week, I didn't even expect to get six touches. I've just got to be ready in case they call my number. Running the ball is supposed to come natural and it did last week. I felt good last week."

SCOUTING REPORT

This was the pre-game scouting report on Browns running back William Green before the previous Browns-Steelers game:

"He's just not the kind of back they envisioned. He's a guy you line up in the I and he pounds away, 4-5 yards at a time, and by the fourth quarter he's getting stronger and you're not. But they want him back there as a single back who's going to break long runs. That's not the kind of back he is. They should've known that when they drafted him. They're trying to fit a square peg in a round hole."

And today:

"William Green, that's the difference. They decided to not just give him five carries but to make him the man. That's the difference in the Browns."

Green will likely be the focal point of the Steelers' defensive game plan and thus force back-up quarterback Kelly Holcomb to win the game. Can he?

"He can get on a streak and do well," the source said. "But once he gets on a hot streak he thinks he's better than he is and forces some things."

PERSONAL VIEWS

Mike Mularkey would be committing career suicide by taking the job with the Cincinnati Bengals without assurances that someone as qualified as, say, Tom Modrak were taking over the personnel side. The Bengals won't do that, and are even down another scout with the passing of Joel Buchsbaum. … The top three picks in the draft will be: 1. Southern Cal QB Carson Palmer (Bengals or trade), 2. Michigan State WR Charlie Rodgers (Lions) and 3. Texas WR Roy Williams (Texans). Regional bias determines Nos. 2 and 3, but the freakish Williams is probably the gem here. … Why are the hard-playing Browns 8-point underdogs to a team that has underachieved this season? Because the laws of physics are stacked against Holcomb in his match-up with the City of Pittsburgh. Sports books fear most the laws of physics … Steelers, 30-17.

---Jim Wexell




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