View Full Version : AFC North: Steelers get Moore than expected

10-09-2008, 12:59 AM
AFC North: Steelers get Moore than expected

By Shawn Clarke, NFL Contributing Editor
http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnf ... id=4184024 (http://www.sportsnetwork.com/merge/tsnform.aspx?c=sportsnetwork&page=nfl/news/newstest.aspx?id=4184024)

(Sports Network) - Pittsburgh Steelers running back Mewelde Moore knew before the regular season started that he had two players to leapfrog before getting his shot at carrying the ball. Little did he know that opportunity would come Sunday night in Jacksonville.

With starter and Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker sidelined with a knee injury and rookie backup Rashard Mendenhall out for the year because of a shoulder problem, Moore earned his first start since 2005 with Minnesota against a defensive-minded Jaguars squad in its own backyard. Many critics believed Pittsburgh's running back-by-committee approach would flop under the Florida stars, but Moore displayed moves from his standout days at Tulane by rushing for 99 yards on 17 carries in a 26-21 Steelers' victory.

Moore drew comparisons to Parker with his quick and elusive style of running while being reliable out of the backfield with three receptions for 17 yards. The veteran, who signed with the Steelers as a free agent in March, perhaps may have recorded the 100th yard on the night had his helmet strap not snapped during Pittsburgh's game-winning drive.

"It would have been like icing on the cake," Moore said of reaching the century mark. "A win and 99 yards, the win is my extra yard. I am satisfied with the win. I am satisfied with what we accomplished as a team."

Now Moore and the AFC North-leading Steelers (4-1) can relax with their bye week coming up, and a few of players -- particularly Parker -- will be able to return to the field on October 19 at division-rival Cincinnati. Parker hasn't played since a Week 3 loss at Philadelphia and should be ready to go against a Bengals team he has tortured in the past. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in three of the last four meetings between the teams, with five touchdowns over that span.

Nose tackle Casey Hampton, defensive end Brett Keisel, cornerback Deshea Townsend and guard Kendall Simmons are also currently banged up for the Steelers.

Another member of the walking wounded who is in strong need of a break is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has been sacked 18 times so far this season and three times in each of the previous two games.

With the Steelers wary of how Moore would perform on the big stage, the offense initially rested its hopes on the sore shoulder of Roethlisberger, who passed for 309 yards, three touchdowns and was picked off once against the Jags. He hadn't thrown for more than 191 yards in each of the Steelers' previous four games before shredding the Jags' secondary, which allowed a game-winning eight-yard touchdown strike from Roethlisberger to Hines Ward with 1:53 left to play.

The Steelers are 4-1 for the second consecutive year.

BENGALS: If history has any bearing on an NFL coach's tenure, especially in Cincinnati, than Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis can expect a pink slip some time during or after this season. The Bengals are off to a miserable 0-5 start for the first time since opening the 2002 campaign with seven straight losses. Dick LeBeau led the team to a 2-14 record that year and was replaced by Lewis the following season.

Lewis went 8-8 in his first two seasons, 11-5 in 2005, then back to 8-8 in 2006 and a 7-9 mark last year. Now he is feeling the heat more than ever with Cincinnati struggling through the worst of times under his tenure.

Sunday's 31-22 loss at Dallas was closer than it the score indicated, however. After the Cowboys cruised to a comfortable 17-0 lead early on, Cincinnati never gave up even though the breaks were going Dallas' way and quarterback Carson Palmer shook off an elbow injury to throw for 217 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. It almost seemed as if the Bengals were going to find the win column against a tough Cowboys team on the road, but a costly fumble by running back Chris Perry extinguished any fire the Bengals had left. The miscue resulted in a 57-yard touchdown from Tony Romo to Terrell Owens that gave the Cowboys a 24-16 lead.

Perry now has five fumbles in five games and may see his carries cut in half with the team reportedly set to re-sign recently-released running back Kenny Watson. Watson was released on Saturday in a move that created a roster spot for wide receiver Chris Henry. In other news concerning the team's backfield, new Bengals running back Cedric Benson made his debut on Sunday and ran for 30 yards on 10 carries. As Benson digests more of the offense, his playing should increase throughout the weeks.

Benson, the fourth pick in the 2005 draft by Chicago, was released by the Bears in June and signed by the Bengals last week. He saw action in a game for the first time since November on Sunday. The former University of Texas star is expected to see more time this week for Cincinnati, which will play its second straight road game and third away test in four weeks this Sunday at the New York Jets.

RAVENS: Baltimore Ravens young head coach John Harbaugh has his team off to a 2-2 start after Sunday's tough loss versus the undefeated Tennessee Titans. Harbaugh and the Ravens started out 2-0 before losing the last two games by a combined six points, as Baltimore dropped a 23-20 overtime decision at Pittsburgh before the Titans departed M&T Bank Stadium with a 13-10 triumph on Sunday.

The Tennessee game was a slugfest that came down to the final two minutes, as Titans quarterback Kerry Collins took advantage of a defensive penalty on the Ravens by marching his team downfield and firing the game-winning pass to Alge Crumpler. Even though the Ravens outgained the Titans by a 285-210 margin in total yards, it wasn't enough to keep pace with the 4-1 Pittsburgh Steelers atop the AFC North.

The Ravens have been plagued by the injury bug as well. Cornerback Samari Rolle (neck surgery) and safety Dawan Landry (neck) were inactive on Sunday, while corner Fabian Washington (shoulder) and offensive lineman Adam Terry (knee) were hurt during the contest. Rolle is expected to be out at least a month.

Veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason (thumb) also went down this Sunday versus the Titans. He leads the Ravens with 21 catches for 261 yards this season.

Baltimore's defense played extremely tough until the fourth quarter, as it held Tennessee running backs LenDale White and rookie Chris Johnson to a combined 48 yards on 21 carries. The unit committed a costly blunder late in the final period, however, when linebacker Terrell Suggs was whistled for touching Collins' helmet on a third-down try to give the Titans a fresh set of downs on the game-winning touchdown drive.

It didn't help either that kicker Matt Stover missed a field goal before halftime and first-year signal caller Joe Flacco was intercepted twice.

Now the Ravens take their show to the road for back-to-back games at Indianapolis and Miami. Baltimore has lost eight of its last nine road games dating back to last season, and will have tough time this week at the Colts with a banged-up defensive backfield.

In other news, Ravens running back Le'Ron McClain is tied for third in the NFL with four rushing touchdowns. He has done well splitting time with starter Willis McGahee, who is shaking off a chest injury.

BROWNS: Cleveland entered its recent bye week with its first win of the season, a 20-12 victory over the AFC North-rival Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4, and now the well-rested club will prepare for back-to-back games versus NFC East inhabitants New York and Washington. The Browns will host the defending Super Bowl champion and 4-0 Giants on Monday night, Cleveland's first appearance on Monday Night Football since December 8, 2003.

Head coach Romeo Crennel will have a few banged-up players back, but the biggest return may be wide receiver Donte Stallworth. The veteran has yet to play this season because of a pulled quadriceps muscle, but is expected to make his debut against a New York team he is familiar with, having played with Philadelphia a few years ago. Stallworth is a speedy wideout who keeps safeties off of the line of scrimmage, and his return should open the offense for Pro Bowl receiver Braylon Edwards. Edwards hasn't lived up to expectations this season, but is still a threat downfield and a favorite target of quarterback Derek Anderson.

Anderson would like to redeem himself after suffering a concussion against the Giants in the preseason and prove to the Cleveland fans that backup Brady Quinn should remain holding the clipboard.

In other injury news for the upcoming game against the G-Men, veteran linebacker Willie McGinest may return after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Offensive tackle Ryan Tucker, who has been sidelined since having surgery for a fractured hip in May, is expected to be ready for this week. Tucker was the Browns' starting right tackle from 2002-2006 and started the last eight games of the 2007 season.

10/07 16:50:04 ET

10-09-2008, 01:02 AM

10-09-2008, 01:07 AM
:Agree :tt1