By Mike Bires
PITTSBURGH _ Keith Rivers, watch out.
If Hines Ward gets a chance Sunday, he’ll hit you just as hard as he did last season when he broke your jaw.
“Each and every game I’ve played in, I know I’m hunted,” said Ward, the Steelers’ star wide receiver who’s long been regarded as the NFL’s best-blocking wideout. “Each and every game, I hunt, too. It’s football. So it’s not about me and Rivers. It’s about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals.”
In the seventh game of the 2008 season _ a 38-10 Steelers win at Paul Brown Stadium _ Rivers had his rookie season come to an end.
A linebacker drafted in the first round by the Bengals, Rivers suffered a broken jaw after he was drilled by Ward.
It happened on a first-down pass play from the Cincinnati 43-yard line when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw to tight end Matt Spaeth for a 6-yard gain.
“I put a pretty good hit on him and unfortunately his jaw got broke,” Ward said. “It’s unfortunate it happened. But it’s just part of football. You get hit. Every player who’s ever put on a uniform has got hit before.”
Shortly after his jaw was broken, Rivers suggested that he would seek revenge on Ward.
“You reap what you sow,” Rivers said then.
On Wednesday, however, Rivers downplayed the incident during interviews with the Cincinnati media.
“It’s over with. It’s done with,” he said. “I really don’t have much to say about it.”
I just want to have a good game, make some plays and get a W.”
The 1-1 Bengals host the 1-1 Steelers at 4:15 p.m. Sunday.
HOLMES PRACTICES, SAYS WRIST IS OK
Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes took part in practice Wednesday and showed little effects from a minor wrist injury he suffered in this past Sunday’s 17-14 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Holmes was not mentioned Tuesday when coach Mike Tomlin delivered an injury report at his weekly press conference. But Holmes was seen at team headquarters that day with some sort of cast or protective bandage on his left wrist.
On Wednesday, however, he was a full participant at practice.
“The hand’s pretty good,” Holmes said afterwards. “It’s banged up, just a little bruised.”
Holmes did drop three to four passes Sunday in a game affected by rain. One of the drops came late in the fourth quarter on what could have been a game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass. One play later, Jeff Reed missed a 43-yard ield goal that would have broken a 14-14 tie.
Holmes said that would-be TD pass was tipped by Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman.
IN OTHER INJURY NEWS …
Four players missed practice Wednesday, but only two due to injury.
Strong safety Troy Polamalu remains out indefinitely after suffering a sprained knee in the season opener.
Tyrone Carter, who started in place of Polamalu in Chicago, missed Wednesday’s practice due to a bruised thigh. Carter was injured in the second quarter when he broke up a pass with a violent hit on Bears tight end Greg Olsen.
The other Steelers to sit out Wednesday were Ward and defensive end Aaron Smith. As 33-year-old veterans, they were simply given the day off. Last year, Ward hardly ever practiced on Wednesdays. It’s more of the same this year for him and Smith.
Meanwhile, wide receiver Limas Sweed returned to practice after missing Sunday’s game with a mid-foot sprain.
TIMMONS LIKLEY TO MAKE FIRST START
It appears that inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons will probably make his first start Sunday in Cincinnati.
Timmons missed the season opener against the Tennessee Titans with a high ankle sprain. He returned this past Sunday in Chicago, primarily on passing downs.
But this week, Timmons is expected to replace Keyaron Fox, who started the first two games.
“The way that we chose to monitor that is we let Keyaron play in base and Lawrence work in nickel to a certain degree, and then we balanced it out by having Lawrence play base to get more work,” Tomlin said. “I thought it went relatively well. Lawrence played a decent number of snaps.
“I think with another week of work he’s going to be ready to go.”
STATS PROVE THAT IT’S “AIR TOMLIN”
After two games, the Steelers are clearly a passing team.
Of their 123 offensive plays, 78 have been passes. That’s 63.4 percent of the offense.
The Steelers are tied for seventh in the NFL in passing yards, but rank only 28th in rushing.
“You have to keep with up with the trends, you have to keep up with the times, and that’s kind of evolving into a passing offense league-wide,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s fun to be able to win it that way and the offensive line takes pride in that as well. Just as much as the running game _ the wide receivers, myself, the O-line _ we take pride in winning games when we can throw it, too.”
The Steelers were more balanced Sunday in Chicago than they were in the season opener. But they lost.
In a 13-10 overtime win against the Titans, the Steelers racked up 357 passing yards compared to only 36 rushing yards. In the 17-14 loss to the Bears, they threw 203 and ran for 105.