Hobson's Choice: Carson Comeback has Steel edge

So our boy looked good during the interview and I have to admit I got real pumped when he talked about being "pissed" about the Steelers winning it all. What did you make of it? Does this really change anything? Thanks
**--Jack, Cincinnati

JACK:** Loved it. Absolutely loved it. When he said that, I could smell burning leaves, frost, smoking grills in the parking lot, leather jackets, and everything else the nostrils associate with autumn. The kid is a pure football player. If Palmer didn't get plowed and had a chance to shoot it out with Ben in the winter twilight, there's no question Bengals-Steelers would have been the nationally-televised 2006 NFL opener.

What do you mean by change, Jack? It doesn't mean he'll be back by Opening Day. But the Steelers' stuff shows the Power of Carson as he gets more and more comfortable as a leader.

Look, I don't want to make him out like Lincoln at Gettysburg, but he's got that knack of saying a lot by saying a little because he chooses his words so carefully and is so damn normal. Even though he's not a dream interview, he's a coach's dream because his talent and paycheck make teammates listen no matter how soft-spoken or trite the words.

But Wednesday's words were neither one of those when it came to the Steelers and head coach Bill Cowher. He spoke with the jagged edge of leadership.

And it seems to set just the right tone in the wake of "The Mental Implosion" stuff being said about this team after a shaky second half followed by what has been reported as an even shakier halftime.

What does it change?

Maybe nothing.

But to have your Pro Bowl quarterback not back down from your biggest rival and the team that maimed him with a classy fierceness has to make Bengaldom feel better today than it did yesterday.

The thing I like is the way his face lit up talking about the rivalry. He truly does love it.

During a brief walk with Cowher at the NFL Scouting Combine last month, he was informed that a reader started a petition to get me fired because of the post-season coverage of the Steelers on Bengals.com.

(Never mind that the site covered in similar fashion the Ravens and Patriots, other AFC Bengals foes that won the Super Bowl in years past. But it was the Steelers that pressed the hot button.)

Cowher's face lit up, too, when he heard of the fan unrest.

"Isn't that great?" he asked. "You've got to love that passion. That's what it's all about."

To his credit, Cowher admitted a bit sheepishly that things get said in the heat of the moment and he understands that he has become Public Enemy No. 1 in Bengaldom because of his parody of the Who-Dey chant.

And, to Palmer's credit, on Wednesday, in his first chance, he quietly and succinctly went bolt-for-bolt matching Cowher's intensity.

Just a little something to keep you warm until No. 9 is truly fine.

But, like Cowher asked, "Isn't it great?"

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