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Fitzpatrick starts vs. Steelers

Updated: 5:30 p.m.

Marvin Lewis has named Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Bengals starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Steelers.

Lewis, who made the announcement at his Monday news conference, had yet to talk to Palmer since his visit Monday morning in New York with the Mets team doctor. But he said "a further conservative approach" has been recommended for his inflamed throwing elbow.

"But I'll talk with Carson in person further about what the doctor thought and what he thought the options were," Lewis said. "I don't think anything has been ruled out."

The options seem to range from Palmer playing in two weeks in Houston, waiting until after the Nov. 9 bye, or shutting it down for the season.

"I want to talk to Carson to see where he is," Lewis said.



What Lewis did talk about Monday was his offense and how he seeks a spark after it generated against the Jets the third fewest yards (171) and third fewest rushing yards (43) in his 87 games as coach of the Bengals. He's looking at his wide receivers to help bail out a Bengals club that since 2004 is 2-3 in games Palmer doesn't play and is ranked next-to-last in NFL offense and rushing.

Although Lewis said he and his staff are combing through how to run the ball and who to run it with, he is turning to eight-year receivers Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

"I will say that we are now up to speed most of the time on the perimeter (wide receivers), and that's a good thing," Lewis said. "We may lean harder and harder on those more experienced guys on the outside to give us more."

For the guys backing up the struggling Chris Perry at running back, Cedric Benson and Kenny Watson, Lewis indicated they are being considered for increased time and that's where the "spark" could come from. Benson carried just four times and Watson none on Sunday.

"We had 30 first and second downs yesterday, and we would like to get Cedric involved more. But he was in there on eight of those 30. We would like to get him involved more, but our two longest drives were in the one-minute drill," Lewis said. "We don't feel real comfortable with him having to deal with all that can go on in those types of situations right now. We'll continue to work on him, and Cedric was here real early this morning, so he wants to get better. So we'll keep trying to get him involved more."

"I thought Kenny had a good week of practice," he said of Watson's hamstring issue. You know, he practiced a week ago Friday and this week, so we've got to look at everything. As I'm saying, I'm not ruling anybody out. We need a spark, and we're not getting it, and we've got to find a way. We owe it to everybody to find a way to get more done."

Even though Fitzpatrick's longest completion was 16 yards, Lewis said the backup improved.

"I thought Ryan did a lot better things than he did a couple of weeks ago. We still want to make sure we play better around him, and that we're 100 percent taking care of the football," he said.

Lewis did throw some praise around to his defense, saying ends Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom had their best games of the season, as did rookie linebacker Keith Rivers. He also liked what third-rounder Pat Sims did in his first 39 NFL snaps on Sunday.

"I think it's only the second time he's played, including the preseason, and he got some significant snaps. He really did a good job," Lewis said.

Lewis also said that kicker Shayne Graham (groin) kicked pretty well Saturday but the club opted to sit him Sunday and "he'll be reevaluated later in the week."

Safety Dexer Jackson (thumb) could be back for the Steelers but backup defensive backs Jamar Fletcher and Herana-Daze Jones look iffy after straining their hamstrings Sunday. Defensive tackle John Thornton (Achilles), who missed Sunday, is also going to get reevaluated.

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