By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — During the extra-point try after the Baltimore Ravens scored a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers this past Sunday night, their starting right guard — 6-foot-3, 302-pound Chris Chester, No. 65, a fifth-year pro from Oklahoma — fired out early and was called for illegal procedure.
The referees walked off the five-yard penalty, and the Ravens tried to kick again. But before the teams could get lined up, tempers had to be settled. Chester apparently went for James Harrison’s knee on the play, which the Steelers believed to be intentional, and a lot of shoving and screaming back and forth ensued. No additional penalties were called, and no one was fined.
“I haven’t heard anything about that,” Harrison said Thursday after practice. “It was uncalled for (and) cheap.”
Emotions were running extremely high to that point and continued to rise as the game progressed, but Harrison maintained his composure — for the most part — and so did his teammates. Steelers captain James Farrior commended everyone who was involved on his side of the line.
“That was pretty dirty,” Farrior said. “I think it was definitely planned and just one of the dirty things that they did in the game. But (Harrison) was a smart guy. He didn’t retaliate, and that’s what I think they wanted him to do to get him out of the game. But he held it down pretty good.
“It was a very emotional game, and Debo’s certainly an emotional guy. So, I definitely was pleased with the way he responded. I definitely think I saw a little bit of growth in James with how he dealt with that situation. It was the right thing for him not to retaliate at that point.”
Farrior knows that it would be easy to have a letdown after the way things ended against the Ravens in a game that took a lot out of each player. That’s why the Steelers must stay focused on Cincinnati, the Steelers’ opponent Sunday at 1 p.m. at Heinz Field. The Bengals are 2-10.
“It’s going to be tough, but we have to get focused in on the Bengals,” Farrior said. “The last game really took a lot out of everybody. It was a little emotional game, a lot of ebb and flow, and we were really riding high after that game. So, we just have to hone in on the Bengals and stay focused on them.
“You definitely need rest, and I’m definitely a guy who likes to get a lot of rest. Everybody understands that we have to take care of our bodies, because it’s coming down to the homestretch now, and we have to be ready for it. Every one of these games is important, and they’re all going to be tough games.”
While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still has lingering issues from a sore right foot, one can expect the Steelers to continue to use the short-dropback, pistol formation. Steelers offensive coordinator explained the situation.
“We used the pistol so he could get his reps in practice and not miss a beat,” Arians said. “(But) when your quarterback can’t walk, it comes in handy. But it’s just a situation where you shorten the handoff and can still fake and run the football, because you’re still in the I-formation or a one-back set.
“So, it doesn’t change anything other than the handoff point, and (center Maurkice) Pouncey — it has nothing to do with the quarterback, but whether or not your center can do it. And Pouncey is a natural at it, so it was easy for us to jump right into it. It’s the (third) time I’ve had to do it.
“We had to do it in 1979 (at Mississippi State) when we lost our quarterback in pre-game warmup,” Arians added. “When he got back in there, we stuck him in the pistol. In 1992 (with the Kansas City Chiefs), I think we did it again, so it’s nothing that’s relatively new. Like anything in football, it’s happened before.”
The Steelers defense got a boost this week with the knowledge that veteran end Aaron Smith was on track to return for the playoffs, and the offense got one as well when right tackle Flozell Adams moved back into his starting spot Thursday during practice.
“Flozell has persevered through it,” Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. “He’s not 100 percent, but he’s a tough, old pro. And it’s good to have him back out there.”
Redman (ankle), limited in practice Wednesday, also went through a full practice Thursday. Defensive tackle Steve McLendon (stinger) was limited.
Tight end Heath Miller (concussion), defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps) and safety Troy Polamalu (ankle) did not practice, but Polamalu has followed this regimen the past few weeks and is still expected to play. Miller isn’t likely to dress this week.
For the Bengals, cornerback Brandon Ghee (groin) will not play, while tight end Jermaine Gresham has been out due to a non-injury related issue. Cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph (ankle) and Rico Murray (ankle) also did not practice.
Center Kyle Cook (shoulder), defensive end Carlos Dunlap (hip), guard Nate Livings (ankle), linebacker Rey Maualuga (shoulder) and defensive tackle Pat Sims were limited Thursday.
Wideout Terrell Owens (knee) and running back Bernard Scott (illness) returned for full participation.