Hurry Up to Keep Winning

Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was a virtual no-show in Sunday's 36-33 AFC Wild Card victory over the Cleveland Browns, getting only one carry. But before you write it off as an anomaly, you'd better think twice. While the Browns were willing to turn Sunday's game into a track meet, the Titans don't figure to want to play that kind of game.<br><br>

Because of injuries they have at wide receiver, the Titans don't have the quality depth at wideout that the Browns do. And throwing the ball 45 times in a game is just not what Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair is suited for.

The biggest mistake the Steelers could make is to come out against the Titans and try to play a grind-it-out kind of game. That's the kind of game the Titans want to play and one the Steelers no longer excel at.

Neither Jerome Bettis or Amos Zereoue have had a ton of success running the ball against Tennessee in the past, but Bettis has had more success than Zereoue. In 13 career games against Tennessee, Bettis has 798 yards on 223 carries, an average of 3.6 yards per attempt. Zereoue has 35 yards on 17 carries, a 2.1 yards per attempt average. And every carry is a grind against the Titans' version of the old 4-6 defense.

Earlier this season, when the Titans defeated the Steelers 31-23 in Nashville, Zereoue had 17 yards on 7 carries, while Bettis had six yards on four attempts.

It wasn't until the Steelers went to a hurry-up offense, with Kordell Stewart in at quarterback in place of injured Tommy Maddox, that they began moving the ball with any success.

It was that same hurry-up offense that carried them to a win Sunday against the Browns. A deviation from that plan would mean a loss for the Steelers Saturday.

Here are some more thoughts of a sports writer who's happy ABC got the short end of the stick when it picked the Jets-Indianapolis and Atlanta-Green Bay games.

-Of course the network will get back at me this week by effectively making the Steelers' Divisional Playoff game a night game with a 4:30 start.

If you ever had to write three or four stories in about two hours, you'd understand.

-All week long, we heard about how we hadn't seen the real Browns because they had William Green running hard and he was going to be the difference in Sunday's game.

As it turns out, those Browns fans were right because Green spent most of the game unable to get out of his own backfield; the Browns couldn't run any time off the clock to protect their lead.

The Steelers faced a lot of good running backs this season and Green is not one of them.

-I said last week that Kelly Holcomb stinks.

I'll admit when I'm wrong. Holcomb doesn't stink, but I still like Tim Couch better. Had the Steelers shown Couch a secondary that included Hank Poteat attempting to cover anyone, he would have picked them apart also.

-The Browns' top four receivers are all pretty good. They're not stars like Hines Ward or Plaxico Burress, but they all have the capability to beat you. And they are all young guys who are going to be with Cleveland for at least the next couple of years.

The Steelers had better realize that in the off-season and bring in not one, but two more quality cover corners.

-The Steelers have got to find a way to get Kendrell Bell healthy for Saturday's game. Bell was the difference between them winning and losing Sunday. He hit William Green so hard so many times, Green probably had the number 97 tatooed on his chest.

Whether it be a witch doctor or bionics - although some would swear Bell has already dabbled in bionics - a healthy Bell would give the Steelers a much greater chance for victory.

-Tommy Maddox said following the game that he's looking forward to returning to the site of his near paralysis.

While that may be true because of the circumstances surrounding this game, it's also probably true because Maddox doesn't remember the aftermath of Keith Bullock's hit on him.

-Apparently, the Browns' coaching staff didn't watch any bowl games last week, specifically Florida's loss to Michigan. How else can you explain an attempted wide receiver pass off a reverse on second and goal from the Pittsburgh 4 at the end of the first half?

Joey Porter sniffed out the play - which the Steelers had worked against in practice - and dropped Kevin Johnson for a 15-yard loss. The Browns had to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown. Think they wouldn't have loved to have had the extra four points at around 5 p.m. Sunday?

Johnson was a quarterback in high school, but Holcomb is a quarterback now. Let the quarterbacks throw the passes and the wide receivers catch them.

-The above holds true unless you have Antwaan Randle El on your team. And even then, you only let him throw the ball in certain situations - like a two-point conversion.

--Dale Lolley

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