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Henry battles tweak; D battles versatility

Updated: 4:15 p.m.

Wide receiver Chris Henry says he's been battling a strained quad for the past four weeks since he tweaked it warming up for the Aug. 27 preseason game against the Rams, but he said before Thursday's practice that he'll be full go for the workout on the Paul Brown Stadium field.

Henry was suited up in shoulder pads and shorts and running routes at the start of practice. Also on the field were cornerback Johnathan Joseph (ankle), left guard Nate Livings, and cornerback David Jones (foot). Along with running back Cedric Benson (ankle) they were listed as limited. Defensive lineman Jon Fanene (illness) didn't practice.

For the Steelers on Thursday, Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu's replacement, Tyrone Carter (thigh) was limited. Wide receiver Limas Sweed (foot) and linebacker Lawrence Timmons (ankle) went full.

Henry has a touchdown this season on two catches after catching a touchdown pass in all four preseason games. He says it has hurt his specialty, which is running down long balls. His touchdown came last Sunday in Green Bay on a five-yarder.

"It's been killing me. I can't really open up," Henry said. "I never had an injury like this ... I don't want to miss any time."

Henry didn't participate in Wednesday's practice. He didn't work last Thursday but was back for Friday. The irony is he went out against the Rams and caught his longest ball, a vintage 54-yarder over his shoulder down the sideline. 

"Me opening up for that ball probably hurt it more, but it didn't hold me back from opening up then. The next day I was like, 'Something's wrong,' " Henry said. "They told me if I just keep treating it like I'm doing every day; two (treatments) a day if I have to."

Henry said he felt OK at the beginning of the game in Green Bay (his touchdown came at the end of the first half), but he said he was dragging the leg late in the game and couldn't get any push off it when quarterback Carson Palmer tried to hit him down the sideline with cornerback Al Harris covering.

When the Bengals offense was humming back in 2005 and 2006 and before Henry served two of his three NFL suspensions for legal problems, the Steelers had trouble covering him. In five games against Pittsburgh in '05 and '06, he scored three touchdowns and had two catches of 66 yards. He hasn't scored a touchdown in three games against the Steelers since.

The numbers: In '05 and '06, he averaged 14 yards per catch against the Steelers on 15 for 211. Over the last two seasons, when he has missed a spring session, training camp, a preseason, and 11 regular-season games, he has caught seven balls for just 100 yards in those three games against Pittsburgh with a long of 18 yards.

Henry chalks it up to how the Steelers covered wide receivers Chad Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in '06.

"It's because they were paying so much attention to Chad and T.J.," Henry said. "They were pretty much sleeping on me. I doubt it seriously they'll do (the same thing). This is my fifth season. They know what's up."

MORE BIG BEN: The Bengals haven't sacked Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in nearly two years. You have to go back to Oct. 28, 2007 when tackle Domata Peko did it in a 24-13 loss at PBS.

And defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer doesn't want to hear how vulnerable the Steelers offensive line is when he's still looking for his first sack against them after getting blanked in both games last year.

"They're a lot more experienced. They've only got one new guy (right guard Trai Essex) and good veterans and we couldn't touch him last year," Zimmer said after Thursday's practice. "We haven't got him on the ground yet. It's been a long time."

There's no secret to hauling down the elusive Big Fella. As Zimmer says, "You can't go for the kill shot and you hope more than one guy is there."

It's also no secret that the Steelers are no longer fanatical disciples of the running game, like 2005 when they won the Super Bowl running it 549 times compared to throwing it 379. Last year with a better defense they won the title throwing it 506 times and running it 460. After two games they've jacked up 33 more passes than runs (78-45) and are ranked a very unSteelerish 28th in rushing.

But Zimmer is wary of the Pittsburgh versatility. He thinks the passing could be a product of their first two foes. The Bears crowded the line of scrimmage and the Titans are a physical bunch. He thinks the Steelers are equipped for either game.

"You never know. They could go five receivers and throw every down or go with three tight ends and run it," Zimmer said. "They've got a lot of skilled players, three good tight ends, a good fullback, three good backs, three good receivers and, of course, the quarterback. You never know going into the game."

Zimmer notes that the Steelers are going more with two tight ends and one back this year compared to the two-back sets of last year, but the three-receiver sets continue to be a productive staple.

"They kind of do what they feel like they have to do against each defense," Zimmer said. "They decided to throw a bunch of double moves on (the Titans secondary). I think it depends on what they're trying to do that week."

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