Don't believe the Rumors

Don't believe the Rumors

Rumor has it that the Pittsburgh Steelers have turned into a passing team. True the Steelers have one of the best trios of wide receivers in the NFL with Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Antwaan Randle El, but don't be fooled by the stats too much. If the Steelers are to be successful, they will do it by running the ball.

"Pittsburgh ultimately wants to run the ball," said defensive tackle Tony Williams. "They're throwing it more than normal but they really want to get their running game going. I don't think anything has changed because they have the same head coach and the same players and they want to run the ball."

The Steelers have totaled 148 yards on the ground in their first two games while amassing 571 yards passing. Amos Zereoue is now starting in front of Jerome Bettis, who has been the Bengal defenses' nightmare during his career. In 14 games against Cincinnati, including one as a Los Angeles Ram in 1993, Bettis has had 10 100-yard games. His lone 100-yard game of an injury-filled 2002 season was in the game in Cincinnati when he rushed for 109 yards on 21 carries and scored twice. The Steelers gained 211 yards rushing in their 34-7 win last Oct. 13.

Zereoue has 104 yards on 26 carries and one touchdown this season. He's never had more than 60 yards in seven previous games against Cincinnati.

"We can't pass the ball 46 times a game and expect to win games and be a physical team," said Ward. "I've been here when we only passed the ball 15 times a game, so our offense has evolved but we still have the great skill guys to go out there and get the job done in the running game."

DILLON FACTOR – Bengals running back Corey Dillon became just the second player in team history to surpass 9,000 career yards from scrimmage when he totaled 90 yards last week at Oakland. His 9,062 accumulated yards leaves him 398 yards from overtaking current record-holder James Brooks, who totaled 9,459 in his eight seasons (1984-91).

Dillon has 927 total yards in 11 career games against this week's opponent, Pittsburgh, 819 of those on the ground. Dillon should surpass Brooks sometime during the Oct. 26 home game against Seattle.

RUN STUFFERS – The Steelers have traditionally been stingy against the run but Kansas City rushed for 158 yards on them last week, including a 122-yard, three-touchdown performance by Priest Holmes. Pittsburgh held Jamal Lewis, who broke Corey Dillon's single-game rushing record last week with 295 yards against Cleveland, to 69 yards in the season opener.

"The thing about them is that they have exceptional linebackers every year," said center Rich Braham. "They do a lot of slant angling and they run their defense well. It's a defense that you have to get out at and attack but you've got to be disciplined about it."

Outside linebacker Joey Porter returns this week after being shot in the buttocks on Aug. 31 and having the bullet end up in his right thigh. He rejoins Jason Gildon, Kendrell Bell and James Farrior in the starting lineup. Clark Haggans filled in for Porter during his absence and all he did was total 10 tackles, one sack, knock down one pass and force a fumble. Haggans will have more responsibilities with the special teams now that Porter is back.

CONFIDENCE BUILDING – Quarterback Jon Kitna has thrown twice as many interceptions (four) as touchdowns (two) so far this season but he hasn't lost any belief in himself or the team.

"There's no question that we're going to win and win soon," Kitna said this week. "I just wonder once we get that first one, when it's going to stop, really. That's my opinion."

Kitna has room to be confident against Pittsburgh. He enjoyed his share of success against the Steelers. Two seasons ago, he led the Bengals to a 26-23 overtime win by throwing for 411 yards and two touchdowns. In 1999, he led the Seattle Seahawks into Three Rivers Stadium and they promptly beat the Steelers behind Kitna's 18-of-29, 265-yard, one touchdown performance.

RED ZONE ALERT – The Bengals have scored on all five of their red zone opportunities so far this season but they have also allowed Denver and Oakland to cash in on all five of their combined chances. The net result has been a 27-23 scoring disadvantage for the Bengals in their first two games. Still, it's an improvement from last season when opponents had 16 more red-zone possessions than the Bengals (58-42) and outscored them 275-163 in those opportunities.

The Bengals failed to score on 13 of their 42 possessions last season while opponents where held without points only nine times in their 58 chances.

Pittsburgh has scored 23 points on six red-zone possessions this season but has allowed 36 points on five possessions by their opponents, Baltimore and Kansas City.

NOTEWORTHY – Steelers head coach Bill Cowher is 16-6 overall against the Bengals, the most wins he has against any team… The Bengals have held the first two quarterbacks they faced, Jake Plummer of Denver and Rich Gannon of Oakland, to an NFL-low 34.9 combined passer rating... The Bengals are minus-3 in the turnover department, having committed six turnovers while getting just three themselves in the first two games.

Kevin Goheen
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