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Revenge? Steelers? Of course not

When last the Steelers and Tennessee Titans shared a football field, Joe Nedney did a self-confessed acting job, the Steelers didn’t applaud, and the Titans advanced to take more bows in the NFL playoffs.

You no doubt recall Nedney dropping like he’d been hit by a bus when Dewayne Washington bumped into him after Nedney had missed a potential game-winning 31-yard field goal in overtime Jan. 11.

The official’s flag flew, Nedney got it right the second time, and after the Titans’ 34-31 win, one that ended the Steelers’ season, Nedney said, “When I’m done playing ball, I might try acting.”

Nedney later would recant. He’d only been joking.

No one in the Steelers dressing room was laughing.

“Ludicrous,” coach Bill Cowher said at the time.

A couple of days later, Steelers owner Dan Rooney still didn’t like the call, and he wasn’t so sure about the Titans getting a first-round bye while the Steelers had to travel to Nashville for their second playoff game just six days after winning their first.

Ah, but time heals all wounds. A kinder, gentler Cowher said at his Tuesday media confab that the strange events of last year’s game — the penalty, the inability of the Steelers to get the officials to recognize a timeout call before Nedney’s game-winning kick — are not motivation when the teams meet again Sunday, this time at Heinz Field.

“It’s gone,” Cowher said.

Gone, but not likely forgotten, even though Nedney won’t be coming north for this one because of a knee injury.

This revenge stuff tends to be overblown, much like homefield avantage, the angle Cowher was eager to work yesterday. Still, if ever a team felt it had a score to settle, it would be the Steelers.

Make that a couple of scores. The Titans also beat the Steelers in the regular season last year, another game at Nashville. That Nov. 17 contest was the one in which Tommy Maddox suffered temporary paralysis and had to stay overnight in Baptist Hospital.

Cowher wasn’t pleading total amnesia on the matter of last season’s Titans successes. He did pick up on the assertion that the Titans, although removed from the division by realignment, still seem like a division opponent considering the frequency with which they appear on the Steelers’ schedule.

“Absolutely,” Cowher concurred. “They were the last team we played last year. They knocked us out. We played them twice and lost twice last year. And we remember that.”

The Titans lost their next game in last season’s playoffs to the Oakland Raiders, rewarding the Raiders with the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl and be humiliated by Tampa Bay. This year, the Titans are picked by many to make the Super Bowl trip, an assessment given currency by the Titans’ 25-20 win over Oakland to open this season. Since then, the Titans have been bombed 33-7 by Indianapolis and taken a 27-12 win over New Orleans.

Oakland is 1-2, the lone victory a tight one against winless Cincinnati.

The Titans also are a statistical improbability, a 2-1 team that has been outscored cumulatively by the opposition 65-59.

Still, some now are painting this Steelers-Titans game as a potential AFC title game preview.

Cowher prefers to wait.

“It’s way too early to draw any conclusions about any team at this point,” he said. “The first month of the season, I think everyone’s still trying to figure out who they are.”

Or, in the case of the Steelers, who they owe.


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