Steelers notebook: Steelers still hear Johnson |
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Although boisterous Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson is under a gag order in Cincinnati, his words still resonated through the Steelers locker room Thursday. That’s because someone hung up a quote attributed to Johnson after the Bengals beat the Steelers, in which he said, “It’s time for a change. It’s like going from a black-and-white TV to a color TV. It was Pittsburgh and now, it’s Cincinnati.”

Nobody around the locker room fessed up to posting the quote, though most Steelers got a chuckle out of it.

“I ain’t never seen a game won or lost off the field,” Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said. “We know what we can do and they know what we can do. Maybe they’re just trying to talk themselves into it.”

Added DE Kimo von Oelhoffen, “You know what, I love him. He’s funning. He’s funny as hell. They’re excited right now. And they’re playing good football. They should be proud of themselves where they’re at. But we still have to play football.”

  • Hampton, a University of Texas alum, basked in his alma mater’s Rose Bowl victory over Southern Cal the previous night. Teammates chided him while he was interviewed about the Longhorns’ win, and K Jeff Reed held up a replica jersey of Texas star quarterback and Rose Bowl MVP Vince Young in the background for all the cameras to see.

  • Reed went 4 of 4 on field goals and 5 of 5 on extra points in two playoff games last year. His 33-yard field goal in overtime gave the Steelers a 20-17 victory over the New York Jets in a divisional-round game. In the AFC championship loss to the Patriots, he went 2 of 2 (43 and 20 yards) on field goals and 3 of 3 on extra points. Both of those games were played at home. In Reed’s only road playoff game, a 34-31 loss at Tennessee, he went 3 of 4 on field goals, with a long of 40 yards, and 2 of 2 on extra points.

  • RB Willie Parker is one of only three offensive starters for the Steelers, along with tight end Heath Miller and right tackle Max Starks, with no starting experience in the playoffs. On Sunday in Cincinnati, he makes his postseason debut as the go-to back on a Steelers team that ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing and ran the ball 57 percent of the time.

    “It’s another game but it is a bigger game,” said Parker, who ran for 1,202 yards on 255 carries this season. “If you win, you keep moving, if you lose, you die, so we have to keep moving. It is not that big of a deal. It is the playoffs, we know what is at stake.”

  • In two games against the Bengals this season, Parker ran for 202 yards on 33 carries (6.1 per rush). He had 131 on 18 attempts in the Steelers’ Week 6 win at Paul Brown Stadium. In a 38-31 Week 12 loss at Heinz Field, he had 71 on 15 attempts, but fumbled twice (both recovered by the Steelers) and was temporarily benched.

    “They lead the league in takeaways, so I have to hold onto the ball this time,” Parker said.

    The Bengals, however, are vulnerable to the rush. They rank 20th in the league at 115.6 yards allowed per game.

  • Bengals rookie second-round pick Odell Thurman is one of the top rookies in the NFL. He leads the Bengals with 148 tackles, 46 ahead of the next top tackler, and leads NFL rookies with five interceptions. His fourth-quarter pick against the Steelers in Week 12 led to the winning touchdown.

  • Steelers LB Andre Frazier, a special teams player, said he expects to return to the lineup after missing the second half of the season with a hamstring injury. Wideout Sean Morey (probable) is the only Steelers player who sat out of yesterday’s practice.

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