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Hobson's Choice: Odell may have to wait

Q: With Pollack now out for the season, what do you think happens with our LB corps when Thurman returns to the team? It seems to make sense to put Thurman back in the middle, move Simmons back to the weak side, & L. Johnson back to the strong side; however, Simmons is playing great in the middle & Jeanty has proven himself very capable of starting in the NFL. Thanks for your insights.
**--Matt, Dayton, OH

MATT:** You're looking at the charter member of the Odell Thurman Fan Club, but isn't it looking more and more like he's going to be riding some pine when he gets back?

I just don't think there is any way you can take Brian Simmons or Landon Johnson off the field. It's pretty clear that Simmons is the glue in the middle (one former Bengal says he's having a Pro Bowl-type year already) and they don't have anyone more consistent or reliable than Johnson.

And, it's tough to lose Pollack, but only because of what they eventually think he can give them if healthy. But the fact is, he has barely played, and with Jeanty playing most of the snaps in the first two games he seems to be doing more than holding up.

Plus, Caleb Miler is having a nice season so far playing a couple of spots in different packages and giving guys breathers.

It's the old cliché. Thurman is going to have to earn his way back, but that ought to make everyone better. As long as the defense keeps producing, why fool with it?

What Pollack's injury may do is end the discussions for the time being about an eventual 3-4 because maybe you could have lined up Pollack and Jeanty on the outside with Thurman and Simmons/Johnson inside. But with Pollack's status in doubt, it looks the 4-3 is here to stay.

Ahmad Brooks has shown some pass rushing ability, so that dynamic may change. But, for now, it looks like they are using him in a developmental role during this part of the season.

Q: When asked, Marvin Lewis said that they were trying to win the football game when, with (two minutes) left in the game Chad Johnson takes a hard shot, with a slant that's thrown high and to the inside. Do you agree with his take on the situation and the need for our first-teamers to still be playing when up by 24 points?

How many points would your team have to be up before you pulled your starters? If Mr. Wright doesn't play in that situation - then I do not expect to see him for the remainder of the year. Your thoughts?
**--Justin, Cincinnati

JUSTIN:** You're talking to a guy who is Barney Frank in politics and Barry Goldwater in football. The greatest play in football with a 24-point lead and two minutes left is a punt.

I have to disagree with Marvin on that one, especially in a game where more players were getting led from the stadium than drunks.

But I'll pass this on from a former NFL GM when told Tuesday that Lewis was taking heat for leaving in his starters too long in a blowout.

"They must be nitpicking if that's what they're getting on him about."

That's true. Think about what they were saying in Cleveland on Monday. You don't have to think. You know. You were saying it here four years ago.

So Lewis hasn't been wrong very often. And, when he thinks he's made a mistake (not re-signing Takeo Spikes, speaking out of turn on Carson Palmer's comeback schedule) he's vowed not to make the same mistake twice. Look at his record. He hasn't screwed up twice in a row very much, if at all.

So, I'd bet if Palmer and Johnson are out there again in a 24-point game, it's either going to be a kneel down or an off-tackle shot to Quincy Wilson.

Of course, he didn't say it was a mistake, but ... Hey, the fact he's getting ripped now for handling a blowout is a welcome argument and is another testament to the job he's done here.

But, yeah, he lucked out Sunday that Chad didn't get carted off, too.

Q: Is Eric Ghiaciuc going to start at center or could Stienbach move to center and have Whitworth at guard? Having the extra size might be good. Either way, controlling Hampton is crucial and a difficult task. I'm one of the few Bengals fans up here in Pittsburgh.
**--Wes, Pittsburgh

WES:** A big God love ya' from Bengaldom. After the Jags wore them down Monday night, you've got a point on size. But from an experience point, Ghiaciuc has taken a lot more snaps at center in practice and games.

Every Cincinnati school kid knows how Steinbach came into the game in an emergency last year to play center for virtually the first time in his life and they beat the Texans. And this year he has been taking some snaps in practice.

But not nearly the reps that Ghiaciuc has received. And Ghiaciuc gets a good portion of Braham's snaps in practice because they're trying to rest him as much as they can. I would think he'd be the guy.

The intriguing thing about putting Steinbach at center against the Steelers is that it would put the 340-pound Andrew Whitworth at left guard, and Pittsburgh's smaller, athletic guys did seem to get worn down by the Jacksonville front late in the game.

It sounds like Bengals running back Rudi Johnson is starting to love him already. Asked after the game if Whitworth seems more mature than most rookies, Johnson said, "Look at how big he is. If you were that big, wouldn't you be?"

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