BY GEOFF HOBSON
The Bengals saw something on film. Maybe the Steelers did, too.
Instead of letting Neil Rackers try a 34-yard field goal with 12:34 left in the first half of a game they trailed, 7-0, the Bengals opted for a fake on fourth-and-three from the Pittsburgh 16.
Holder Daniel Pope took the snap and tried to run the option with Rackers around left end. But Pope, surprised that Steelers cornerback Dewayne Washington was staying on the outside, got devoured when he tried to cut up inside. Then he bounced his pitch to Rackers for a five-yard loss.
"That's the thing that's keeping us from winning. The execution," said Bengals coach Dick LeBeau. "We're going to take a chance on getting the points when we can get them. I thought it was a good opportunity for us to get seven instead of three."
What the Bengals saw on film was Washington coming hard off the corner. The Bengals thought Pope could shoot past Washington on the perimeter, get a block from tight end Marco Battaglia on the safety and Rackers could take the pitch and walk into the end zone.
"When I came up, (Washington) did what I least expected him to do," Pope said. "And that was sit. If he had taken me, I would have pitched it. I probably should have pitched the ball. He sat on my outside shoulder and I thought I could slip underneath him and then give Rackers the ball.
"I was going to try and turn it up and then pitch it because I figured the pursuit wouldn't be there. . .When I saw (Washington), I probably should have pitched it. It was a quick decision."
Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson called the Steelers' alignment "Truck and Trailer," because they jam the middle with four players against two while they stick others outside.
"They played the fake. They got us on that play," Anderson said. "We thought it was a great call. In practice, everybody was excited about scoring some points because the guys ran it good (in practice)."
JONES STRUGGLES: Right cornerback Artrell Hawkins, a second-round pick, got benched in favor of college free agent Rodney Heath. Glen Steele, a third-rounder, started at defensive tackle in place of $11 million free agent Tom Barndt, hampered by injury. Craig Yeast started in place of current third-round pick Ron Dugans at split end.
Is left tackle Rod Jones next even though he's in the first year of a three-year, $9 million deal? John Jackson, a $650,000 man, got some work late in the game.
Jones allowed two of linebacker Joey Porter's three sacks. One led to a Steeler field goal because quarterback Akili Smith fumbled when Porter hit him in the back. The other gave Pittsburgh two points because it was a safety on backup quarterback Scott Mitchell.
Smith may have held the ball too long, but Jones said he should have kept on the block longer. He was upset with the safety.
"I was (mad)," Jones said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself. I'm the left tackle. I'm supposed to be a premier person in the league. I consider myself to be."
Jones blamed himself for the safety because he didn't get the protection call smoothly.
"I was looking at the side trying to get the call and then there was the snap," Jones said. "I went. He jammed. I lunged, I felt a little late, you saw it. I just screwed up. I knew I was passing, too, so I've got to get that man. I have to help this team. You either help or hurt every play."
BIG 'D': The Bengals' defense played well enough to win for the second straight week. Running back Jerome Bettis got his eighth 100-yard day against Cincinnati, but it was only 101 and it took him 29 tries.
Defensive end John Copeland heard the crowd go nuts when Bettis went over 100, but he said, "He was no factor in the game. He had 100, but he probably had 40 carries. . .I was proud of our run defense today."
The much-maligned Bengals cornerbacks held up well after Steelers quarterback Kent Graham burned them on the second play of the game for a 77-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward.
Graham's longest pass after that was 14 yards. Heath said he made a mistake in technique to let Ward get inside him, but Graham actually did the Bengals a favor by throwing into double coverage.
The problem was, when strong safety Cory Hall came over to help Heath, his hit knocked them both off Ward. And Hall out of the game with a minor concussion.
OLIVER'S TWIST: The Bengals thought they had a shot at finally getting some good field position midway through the third quarter when the Steelers faced a second-and-23 from their own 12.
Rarely do you see defensive holding called on a nose tackle, but that's when it happened to Cincinnati's Oliver Gibson that gave Pittsburgh an automatic first down.
"I don't think the NFL allows you to comment on officiating, so I'm not going to do it," Gibson said. "But what do you think? When was the last time you heard of defensive holding?"
"By the nose tackle," Gibson was told.
"Exactly," he said. "So there you go."