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Anderson an hour away

If all goes as he hopes, the Super Bowl is going to be the 199th game of Ravens right tackle Willie Anderson's career.

It also could be his last. But these are things he is putting off. Until at least after what he calls another "fistfight" with the Steelers on Sunday. After 24 scuffles with Pittsburgh, his 25th meeting turns out to be the AFC title game.

After 13 years that once included 116 straight starts and a wrenching playoff loss to the Steelers in his only postseason appearance with the Bengals three years ago, Anderson isn't thinking that the Super Bowl is so close.

A mere 60 minutes away after 197 games and his decision not to accept the Bengals offer before this season to cut his salary because of concerns he couldn't practice every day with an assortment of injuries.

Anderson (Getty Images)
"I'm not looking at it like that," Anderson said Tuesday night from Baltimore. "I'm taking it a quarter at a time. I'm going to look up after each quarter and see where we are. That's the way I have to approach it."

Anderson left Sunday's win over Tennessee twice with stingers, an injury that causes momentary numbness to the arms and hands, and no one doubts he'll be back in there. Especially in a season that began with doubts about his health.

As he got treatment Tuesday night, he talked to Ravens fullback Le'Ron McClain about the man on the other sideline entrusted with stopping McClain, Anderson and the Ravens' power running game.

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau also happened to be Anderson's head coach in Cincinnati for 45 of those games from 2000-2002.

"I was just telling the guys here how good of a man he was," Anderson said. "I really wish he'd get the second chance to be a head coach. He had the wrong group of guys in Cincinnati. He didn't put that team together. But everybody respected him. In Pittsburgh they were built up with his philosophy, just like the defense here in Baltimore was built up with a philosophy."

Anderson remembers how LeBeau finally got his Super Bowl ring in 2005 after 47 NFL seasons. The Steelers journey began at Paul Brown Stadium in the supercharged Wild Card win over the Bengals. Quarterback Carson Palmer took only two snaps before being done for the day with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee on former Bengal Kimo von Oelhoffen's hit following a 66-yard completion.

"I think for Coach LeBeau and the Steelers, that was their destiny that year," Anderson said. "I think that's how we are now. I hope the next great thing that happens for Coach LeBeau is that he gets in the Hall of Fame."

Anderson does see some similarities to the '05 playoff matchup against the Steelers. The Bengals had split their games with Pittsburgh that season while the Ravens have lost two tight ones this year to the Steelers, 23-20 in overtime and 13-9.

"We're kind of coming in the same way they did," Anderson said. "I remember (the Steelers) didn't believe we could beat them a second time. This is an interesting game. It's a fistfight and we've got to keep fighting. I think there are going to be more points than that (a 13-10 game). They were two fistfights and two times they made plays."

When Bengals president Mike Brown talked about the decision to reduce Anderson's $3 million salary earlier this season, he said the coaches felt Stacy Andrews had become a more effective right tackle and that Anderson couldn't practice enough because of his health. Now that he's a linchpin on one of the NFL's top rushing teams, Anderson won't talk about the future. He turns 34 next July and won't rule out retirement or coming back.

The subject is like everything else: 60 minutes away.

"Quarter to quarter," he said. "Then we'll see."  

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