Thursday night Steelers

Thursday evening update on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The most promising thing to come out of Pittsburgh's easy victory against Baltimore was the play of quarterback Tommy Maddox.
   Despite the season Maddox had in '02, questions swirled around him. Would defenses find ways to exploit his weaknesses, could he hold up against a heavy rush, was last season a fluke?
   He opened against a tough defense and shredded it. Maddox was near perfect. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 260 yards, 3 TDs, no interceptions and a whopping 134.3 passer rating, which leads the NFL. They don't come much better than that.
   Maddox had pinpoint aim. He threw between defenders and lofted the ball over them, as he did with Hines Ward's 4-yard TD in the corner of the end zone. If he continues that way, he'll go from Comeback Player of the year to MVP.
   "I was having fun playing," said Maddox, named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week. "I think everyone out there was having fun playing. You go thru periods. I tend to look at the eight passes we missed, we should have hit a lot more. They batted a few down and I missed a couple of throws. It obviously was a good start for us."
   -- LB Joey Porter was declared out on Thursday for this week's game after being upgraded early in the week to doubtful. The Steelers don't want to rush Porter and risk infection from the 9 mm bullet wound he received Aug. 31.
   -- RB Amos Zereoue wants to play more on passing downs, but he hasn't pushed for it yet. Zereoue caught 42 passes last season, when he was their third-down back. Now that he's starting, he's been replaced by Verron Haynes. Zereoue did not catch a pass in the opener.
   -- SS Troy Polamalu, the Steelers' first-round draft choice, made few plays in the preseason and made none in the opener. Polamalu, the 16th player chosen in the draft, does not start but plays on all their passing defenses. He had no tackles, no passes defensed, no stats other than on special teams tackle.
   -- CB Deshea Townsend wasn't happy in the opener because he played only four snaps, the number of times the Steelers played in the dime defense. Townsend, the No. 3 cornerback, does not play in the nickel defense and the Steelers used that defense much more often in the opener.
   -- RB Jerome Bettis did not practice Wednesday and Thursday. He has a groin injury after carrying just four times for 14 yards in the season opener. If he cannot play, it's possible the Steelers will sign rookie RB Dante Brown off the practice squad this week.

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