Injured tackle heaps praise on the Steelers
Some of the Steelers’ veterans may do a double-take when they see mammoth offensive tackle Willie Anderson standing on the sideline today while the Bengals’ offense is on the field.
Anderson is the longest-tenured Bengal and the most durable one as well. The 12th-year veteran had played in 116 consecutive games before missing an Oct. 14 game against the Chiefs. Anderson, who has made the Pro Bowl the last four years, will not play in today’s 1 p.m. game either because of a knee injury.
The Steelers’ defense will also be without a significant player if Aaron Smith doesn’t play, as expected, because of a sprained knee. Anderson, who has had his share of battles with Smith, said the Steelers defensive end is one of the most underrated players in football.
The 6-foot-5, 340-pound Anderson talked with the Tribune-Review last week about the respect he has for Smith, the pressure mounting on the 2-4 Bengals and the emergence of Kenny Watson at running back with Rudi Johnson hurt.
Question: You can’t seem to say enough about Aaron Smith. Why is that?
Answer: “Aaron’s one of the best in the business, in my opinion. He usually only has five or six sacks but he plays that defense that well. He plays that scheme that well and he’s still able to rush the passer.”
Q: Is he a Pro Bowler in your eyes?
A: “He gets my Pro Bowl vote each and every year, even though he doesn’t have the huge numbers that the so-called ends have. I make sure the O-line (votes for Smith) as a whole. I’m usually the guy that picks the Pro Bowl linemen. We all get together, and I kind of … not veto things, but to me you can’t rate a guy based on a certain number of sacks.”
Q: Denver was able to throw the ball against the Steelers last week. Do you expect your offense to have a big day against a pass defense that looked shaky?
A: “I’m sure Pittsburgh’s going to shore that up. That’s one thing about great teams. What you see on film that they’ve done a bad job at, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll fix it by the next game, and that’s the reason why they’ve had the success they’ve had over the years.”
Q: How do you and your teammates deal with the pressure that has come because of your team’s slow start?
A: “We ignore it. The best team in the NFL right now is taking heat, their coach (Bill Belichick) is taking heat. It comes with the job. You can’t complain about it. We’re in the sports/entertainment business, and people have the right to criticize and say what they want.”
Q: Was it a surprise to you that Kenny Watson rushed for 130 yards and three touchdowns last week in your 38-31 win over the Jets?
A: “We feel like everybody on our team has that capability. Corey Dillon wasn’t a starting running back (when he first got to Cincinnati). He was backing up Ki-Jana Carter. Then Rudi (Johnson) comes along, and he wasn’t a starter, and he comes in and is a force. We expect Kenny to do the same thing.”