BY GEOFF HOBSON
PITTSBURGH _ In an effort to juice up the NFL's last-rated offense, the Bengals gave wide receiver Craig Yeast his first NFL start and activated rookie running back Curtis Keaton for the first time Sunday morning before they played the Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium.
Yeast, a second-year player with six catches for 74 yards, replaces rookie Ron Dugans at split end. Dugans, working opposite college teammate and fellow rookie Peter Warrick, has nine catches for 72 yards since being named the Opening Day Starter.
"We're trying to get our best playmakers on the field and Craig has shown an ability to break stuff," said Bengals receivers coach Steve Mooshagian. "He's quick and can make things happen."
With Warrick now rotating punt returns with the 5-8, 160-pound Yeast, the Bengals felt they could give Yeast a little more of a load. But Dugans is still the starting split end and Yeast remains in the slot when the Bengals go with three receivers.
Keaton, a fourth-round pick out of James Madison, could be called on to return some kickoffs. He probably won't play on third-down situations, but he could get some carries spelling running backs Corey Dillon and Brandon Bennett.
The Bengals like the 215-pound Keaton's explosiveness and outside speed and think he might be a good change-of-pace for the bigger Dillon and Bennett.
The club deactivated Nick Williams to make room for Keaton, leaving Clif Groce as its only active fullback.