Thursday, September 18, 2003

Notebook: Slow start doesn't preclude postseason

In 2002-03, more 0-2 teams made playoffs than 2-0 clubs

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Bengals are one of eight NFL teams off to 0-2 starts.

But all hope is not lost for making the playoffs.

More teams last season that started 0-2 made the playoffs than teams that started 2-0.

Of the eight teams that started last season 2-0, only Oakland advanced to the playoffs. Carolina, Chicago, Denver, Miami, New England, New Orleans and San Diego did not.

Pittsburgh and Atlanta each started 0-2 in 2002 but made the playoffs. Coach Bill Cowher's Steelers, who will play the Bengals on Sunday, are 1-1 this year.

"You like to get off to a fast start, but the start isn't what determines your final fate," Cowher said Wednesday. "You have to finish strong, and you have to persevere through the tough times."

ACHES AND PAINS: Cornerback Tory James did not practice Wednesday but is not listed on the team's injury report. James, who left Sunday's game at Oakland with leg cramps, is expected to start Sunday.

Tailback Corey Dillon (knee), wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (hamstring) and linebacker Riall Johnson (calf) did not practice. Dillon is listed as probable and will play, but Houshmandzadeh and Johnson are out.

QUICK HEALER: Steelers linebacker Joey Porter, who is recovering rapidly from a gunshot wound, practiced Wednesday and will be upgraded today from questionable to probable.

Porter is expected to start against the Bengals. Steelers starting center Jeff Hartings (ankle) didn't practice and is questionable.

Tight end Matt Schobel (hamstring), tailback Rudi Johnson (thigh) and guard Victor Leyva (chest) are questionable. Johnson and Leyva practiced Wednesday for the first time since the start of the regular season.

BUS TRIP: The Steelers are well known for their traveling fans who often turn visiting stadiums - especially Cincinnati's - into a home away from home by their sheer number.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a former Steelers assistant on Cowher's first staff, is a native of McDonald, Pa., just outside of Pittsburgh.

Lewis' parents still live in McDonald and remain members of First Baptist Church. Church members wanted to get a bus to Cincinnati for Sunday's Steelers-Bengals game, but Lewis' mother, Vanetta Lewis, wouldn't let them.

"We're very careful. We didn't let them go to Baltimore when Marvin was with the Ravens," she said Wednesday.

Marvin Lewis said the church group of some 30-plus parishioners would travel to Cincinnati for the Ravens game Oct. 19.

"My parents wouldn't allow the people from Pittsburgh this week," Lewis said. "You have to check their cards at the door. They'll try to fool you."

MOVING THE BALL: The Steelers (averaging 359.5 yards a game) and Bengals (355) are the AFC's top two offenses. Quarterbacks Tommy Maddox (596 yards) and Jon Kitna (567 yards) are the conference's top two passers. Wide receivers Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress (237 and 231 yards) and Chad Johnson (226 yards) are the top three receivers in the AFC.


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