BY GEOFF HOBSON
At 0-5, look for the Bengals to start mixing in more of their rookie draft picks. Which means fourth-round pick Curtis Keaton, a running back out of James Madison, is expected to be active this Sunday and could return a few kickoffs.
"The numbers speak for themselves ," said Bengals President Mike Brown Friday. "In our hearts, we think we can do better and we want to give it our best shot each and every week.
" On the other hand, we're realistic enough to know where we are and what that means, so we're going to work some new people into the lineup. We're not going to turn it over to them, but we're going to give them an opportunity to show what they can do."
The big irony is that Keaton is probably going to be active and Steelers second-year running back Amos Zereoue won't be. When Keaton fell behind Zereoue on the West Virginia depth chart, Keaton transferred to James Madison.
"I think (Keaton) might do all right," Brown said. .more
"He seems to be settling in," Brown said. "I don't think he's as nervous as he was in the preseason."
Brown also said the two rookie cornerbacks second-rounder Mark Roman and fifth-rounder Robert Bean are expected get more time. They probably won't be active together in the next few weeks, but that could change.
"If we go on the way we're going, it will depend on what they show and then we'll have to decide who is active based on who is playing best," Brown said. "We've been encouraged by what they've done in practice, but games are the only true tests."
Cornerback Rodney Heath gets his second straight start at right corner in place of Artrell Hawkins, but it remains to be seen if Bean and Hawkins will share snaps in the nickel package since it's Bean's turn to be active and Roman's turn to sit. But Hawkins and Bean could play a lot since the Steelers use a lot of three- and four-receiver sets, and occasionally five.
Bean had a solid preseason with an interception. The Bengals' cornerbacks are still waiting for their first regular-season interception. **
ADDITIONAL PARKING TO AID DISABLED:** The Bengals announced Friday the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County are providing approximately 100 additional parking spaces for Bengals' game patrons in the Smith Street lot (corner of Central Avenue and Pete Rose Way), effective for the October 22 game against Denver.
Jeff Berding, Bengals director of sales and public affairs, said, "We appreciate the good work of City and County staff who have made these spaces available for our next home game. A number of these spaces will be made available to single-game ticket holders needing handicapped parking. We are in the process of developing a parking plan for these spaces which provides more convenient parking for our fans with special needs. Details will be announced next week." . . .more
The additional parking has long been a part of the Paul Brown Stadium parking master plan, but has been unavailable to date due to Second Street and Fort Washington Way construction. Recent schedules had projected the new spaces to be available Dec.1. However, the City and County have worked together with contractors to get it sooner.
" We have realized throughout this project that it's crucial to be sensitive to the needs of fans, and in particular those fans who have special needs," Berding said. "We worked with the City and County, and with those constructing the stadium, to make sure physically impaired patrons could access the stadium and view stadium events. We met extensively with community groups who have expertise on these issues."
The result, Berding said, is PBS is one of the best stadiums in the NFL for physically impaired fans. Areas on every level are exclusively to seating for physically impaired fans. Fans in wheelchairs on every level are given views of the stadium unobstructed by patrons in fixed seating.
Parking has been an issue for all Bengals fans. With the reconfiguration of Fort Washington Way, the construction of Theodore Berry Way, and the demolition of Cinergy Field, available parking and how to get there has changed from game to game, the club said.
It has been understood from the start that once road construction around the stadium was completed, access would be easier and many more parking spaces – including more handicapped parking spaces -- would become available.
MATCHUPS: A week after holding Titans end Jevon Kearse sackless, Bengals RT Willie Anderson on passing downs goes against Steelers LOLB Jason Gildon, a player with more sacks in Pittsburgh history than Kevin Greene and as many as Ernie Holmes.
Bengals NT Oliver Gibson goes against old mentor in Steelers C Dermontti Dawson as Cincinnati faces the NFL's No. 2 running game. On the flip side, it's Bengals C Brock Gutierrez and Gs Matt O'Dwyer and Mike Goff vs. Steelers NT Kimo von Oelhoffen, a Bengal the past six seasons. Bengals WR Peter Warrick hpes to get more balls against *Steelers CB DeWayne Washington, who hopes his own words won't destroy him. At 5-10, *Bngals RCB Rodney Heath figues Pittsburgh will match him up with 6-5 Stelers WR Plaxico Burress.. . .more
ANDERSON VS. GILDON: Gildon leads the Steelers with three sacks and, if you can believe it, with 40 in his career he's just 13.5 away from Greg Lloyd for fourth place on the club's all-time sack list. Anderson, who has nearly 100 pounds on the 255-pound Gildon, got Kearse into a power game and this matchup has some similarities. Gildon had a busy day last Sunday in the Meadowlands. He knocked Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde out of the game on the first play and then blocked a field goal later in the quarter.
GIBSON VS. DAWSON: Gibson, the former Steeler, tries to stop the Bengals' struggles against the run, where they've allowed an average of 179 yards the past three games. But even though Pittsburgh's offensive tackles are hurting, the Steelers have averaged 170 rushing yards in the last four games.
Left tackle Wayne Gandy has a bicep problem and right tackle Larry Tharpe makes his first start since '98 after being out of the NFL last season when he replaces the injured Shar Pourdanesh. Rookie Marvel Smith, a second-round pick the Bengals coveted, has missed the last two games with a bad knee but is backing up Gandy Sunday.
So tip your hat to the 13-year Dawson for keeping it together in the middle during this four-game stretch Steelers running back Jerome Bettis has logged 414 yards on 96 carries.
GUTIERREZ, O'DWYER, GOFF VS. VON OELHOFFEN: von Oelhoffen, a Bengals' sixth-round pick in 1994, has played well enough that the Bengals think he's Pittsburgh's best defensive lineman.
von Oelhoffen had a big game when the Steelers held Jacksonville to 26 rushing yards two weeks ago, although it was against the Jags' No. 3 center. Still, he's showing the athleticism the Bengals liked and is staying healthy, which he rarely did in Cincinnati.
The Bengals need to get some room for running back Corey Dillon after he ran for just seven yards on his last 11 carries last week against Tennessee. **
WARRICK VS. WASHINGTON** The Bengals are fuming about Washington's "We'll destroy Cincinnati," comments.
Especially from a guy they've had field days against. Receiver Carl Pickens picked Washington's pocket twice during obvious passing situations in the last minute of the Bengals' last-minute winning drive, and last year receiver Darnay Scott caught four passes for 123 yards in a 27-20 win over the Steelers.
Warrick wasn't happy after waiting more than 58 minutes to get just one catch last week. Can he keep up the anti-Washington campaign?
HEATH VS. BURRESS: The 175-pound Heath figures the 230-pound Burress is headed his way: "It's like playing J.J. Stokes," said Heath. "He's a matchup problem for all of us as far as height goes. Plaxico, from what I've been seeing, is running a lot of in routes. He's coming across the middle. He's a big target."
Heath had a big day in Pittsburgh last year with two interceptions that included a 58-yard touchdown return. He thinks he's getting better in his second season in the league.
"I'm more comfortable, I'm more settled," Heath said. "I'm disguising my coverages better. It's just getting used to playing."
NUMBERS GAME: All the numbers you need for this Sunday's matchup, including 22-8. That's Bengals coach Dick LeBeau's record in Three Rivers Stadium as a defensive coordinator for the Bengals and Steelers. In honor of LeBeau's return to Pittsburgh and the Bengals last game ever at Three Rivers, here's some more series numbers. . . .more
3-12 _ Bengals road record vs. AFC Central foes since 1997, with two of those wins coming in Three Rivers.
2-10 _ Steelers' record in their last 12 home games.
22-8 _ Bengals coach Dick LeBeau's record in Three Rivers as a defensive coordinator for Bengals and Steelers
10-20 _ Bengals' record at Three Rivers.
11-5 _ Steelers' coach Bill Cowher's record vs. Bengals, his most wins against any NFL team.
7 _ 100-yard games Jerome Bettis has against Bengals.
41 _Catches injured Bengals receiver Darnay Scott has against Pittsburgh.
34 _ Total NFL catches by Bengals' receivers active this Sunday.
41-32_ Steelers edge in second half this season
60-3 _ Bengals' deficit in second half this season.
FRIDAY'S INACTIVES: Bengals C Rich Braham, DE Vaughn Booker, MLB Brian Simmons, WR Danny Farmer; Steelers RB Amos Zereoue, LB Clark Haggans, DE Jeremy Staat, RT Shar Pourdanesh.
>WEATHER CALL: The Steelers' flagship station, 102.5-WDVE FM, is calling for partly sunny skies and 73 degrees Sunday.