Not expecting good news with Chris Pressley undergoing an MRI for his knee Friday, it's believed the Bengals are going to work out a group of fullbacks over the weekend at Paul Brown Stadium that includes Cincinnati prep product and former New York Jet John Conner.
Pressley, injured late in the first quarter Thursday night, has had a good year as a lead blocker for running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Although he's played only about 20 percent of the team's snaps, Pressley is one of the reasons Green-Ellis not only went over the 1,000-yard mark Thursday night with his fourth 100-yard game in five weeks, but he also went over the four-yards per carry mark and is now at 4.1 with 1,080 yards on 263 carries.
The only time the Bengals have had their starting back finish at four or better in the last seven seasons is Cedric Benson with 4.1 in 2009. It's a career high for BJGE and his second 1,000-yard season after he went 4.4 yards per carry for the 2010 Patriots with 1,008.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden got some good snaps out of rookie backup tight end Orson Charles at fullback on Thursday and says the 6-3, 250-pound Charles has a banger body he's looking for and not the slighter backup running backs in Brian Leonard and Daniel Herron.
In the last five games of Green-Ellis's run, Pressley has played a high of 35 snaps against the Raiders and low of 10 snaps against the Chiefs.
Gruden isn't sure what it means yet.
"We'll have to work some guys out and see how it goes. But the amount of time he was playing anyway was not that much, so we might have to get Orson schooled up, put some of those plays of Pressley's in there and look at another fullback and see where it takes us," he said.
"That's a special breed of guy, and the breed is dying. There's not many fullbacks in college football anymore, there's not many in pro football really. So we have to find one if we want to use one. If not we'll school somebody else to do it or else work on different runs and different personnel groups."
Gruden said Charles did OK and on one of his first plays he made a good block on wide receiver Marvin Jones's 10-yarder on an end around.
"First time we had to talk through a few things, but he's been doing some of that from the tight end spot, from the off-tight end spot. So a lot of it wasn't new to him," Gruden said. "A couple of them were there in the second half. He did a fine job. Orson's very athletic, he can get on people and he's strong. He's actually got a great body for a fullback. So we'll just see what plays best fit him and how to get after Pittsburgh and try to figure that out in the next couple of days."
The Bengals are well aware of the 5-11, 245-pound Conner, a fifth-round draft pick of the Jets in 2010 out of Kentucky via West Chester, Ohio. Conner had a banged-up MCL earlier this year and the Jets released him, but he's been back in town working out with in the Ignition Sports facility under the care of director Clif Marshall, who says Conner is healthy.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Kicker Mike Nugent looks like he'll be readyto kick in Pittsburgh on Dec. 23, but no one is saying just how that decision on a kicker is going to come down. While Nugent has been rehabbing his right calf muscle the last two games, Josh Brown is 6-for-6 on field goals, has nine touchbacks and hit a perfect popped kickoff that caused a fumble recovery Thursday. Asked if there's a kicking competition, special teams coach Darrin Simmons deferred to head coach Marvin Lewis. But he also said, "Whenever the doctors and our trainers say he's ready to go then we've got a decision to make. But he's got to be ready to go. These are important games for us down the stretch. Somebody's got to be healthy."
Simmons did ask the question, "Why can't we go with two? You don't see it very often ... it's a nice problem to have."
» After splitting the snaps last Sunday between rookie center Trevor Robinson and Kyle Cook, Robinson had two more Thursday, 42-40. Gruden says he has no problems with the rotation the last two games and says it's not a reason for the breakdown of pass protection and the 11 sacks that have been allowed in the last eight quarters. "It's like wide receiver," said Gruden, who says both guys have strengths. "We don't have a standout guy that deserves to play every snap. If you have two guys that are pretty good you might as well use them both.
"That's kind of the case at center. Trevor's done a great job, he's improved tremendously, he's a hell of a center and going to be one for a long time in the NFL. Cookie has done some great things here as well. It's not like he doesn't deserve to play. They both I think are capable centers and do great things."
It sounds like Gruden would like to use a little of both in Pittsburgh at hostile Heinz Field and defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau's smart and multiple defense that Cook has played against six times.
"Flip side of that Trevor is maybe a little bit more athletic right now. He gets up on guys at the second level," Gruden said. "But there will be a guy right over his nose and Cookie has seen that and done that, especially in some of their odd blitz fronts where he's done all the pointing and communicating and that's important, too. I like them both, to be honest with you; it's not an issue whatsoever. Communication is the same, Andy has no problem getting the snaps. If we were fumbling snaps or something it would be something different. But it's not even an issue, it's not even a story. They both are good players."
» How late did the Bengals get back Friday morning? The buses pulled into PBS about 3:15 a.m. Late enough that some club personnel slept in their offices, such as Simmons, still with his air matress out on the floor as he broke down the Steelers and reviewed Thursday night's tape.
» Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is going to remember his 100th NFL start. He came out of the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion, but with the three-day weekend he'll have nine days to get ready for the Steelers a week from Sunday.
» Bengals safety Reggie Nelson hasn't been finedfor his hit on Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant last Sunday, ProFootballTalk.com reported Friday night. Nelson was flagged 15 yards for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Bryant on a play he knocked the ball out of Bryant's hands. Replays clearly showed Nelson put his shoulder into Bryant's chest, the way the NFL wants it done.
Nelson had that in mind after he made a big play Thursday night, when he put his shoulder into Eagles wide receiver Clay Harbor after a 16-yard catch to force one of Philadelphia's four fumbles to put the Bengals back in the red zone.
"I was just trying to make a legal hit," Nelson said with a smile.
The five Bengals turnovers look to be their most since they recovered all four fumbles and had two interceptions in a 21-7 win in Baltimore on Nov. 11, 2007.