Living and learning

Posted: 5:15 p.m.

If you're two young guys like Chinedum Ndukwe and Pat Sims and you were involved in two of the biggest negative plays of Sunday's loss to the Steelers, you don't wallow the next week.

Sims, the rookie defensive tackle who played well again in his second NFL appearance, has already got that part figured out. His coach actually took him off the hook.

"Forget about it and move to the next one," said Sims, who played 31 other snaps besides Steelers running back Mewelde Moore's 16-yarder up the midde past a blitz that got the Steelers off their own 9-yard line in a 17-10 game with 11 minutes left.

A huge play that ignited Pittsburgh's 21-0 finishing kick.

"It wasn't his fault," said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. "He should have kept going. He should have been farther down (the line to the middle), but someone should have been in the other spot, too. It was a blitz, I was trying to create something and I could have made a better call. I wish I had the call back if I could."

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Sims

Which is one of the reasons the players seem to have responded to Zimmer in what has been a tough year getting off the field either because of lack of offense or the foes' big plays on third down. He's a standup guy, but Sims wasn't going to let him take the blame.

"The offensive coordinator made the right call at the right time," Sims said. "We had an inside blitz. The tackles are supposed to go out and the linebackers are coming in the middle. I guess the center got up on the linebacker and just opened it up. Sometimes they catch you."

Zimmer had been successful gumming up the Steelers' first-down runs with some blitzes and he really wanted to make something happen on that play because "we get them to punt from down there and we're in good shape," he said.

Zimmer may want that call back, but it looks like he'll keep Sims, the third-round pick from Auburn.

"He's doing some good things. His effort has been good. His strength has been good. He just has to keep improving," Zimmer said.

Sims is sounding downright exuberant to finally be playing.

"I'm comfortable," Sims said. "One of these days I'm going to be too comfortable and I'll be a beast out there."

Ndukwe, the second-year safety in his first year as a starter who has made some big plays, says he's missed two beastly tackles this year and admits, "They've been big ones. Two too many."

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Ndukwe

The second one came Sunday on the first snap of the second half, which was Moore's 24-yard run and sparked a touchdown drive that spoiled a man-up first half in which the defense held the Steelers to 10 points despite being on the field for 18 minutes. The first was at the end of the half during last month's home opener in which the Titans were content to take a 7-7 game into halftime. But Ndukwe missed a tackle on rookie running back Chris Johnson and his 51-yarder is still the longest run of the season against the Bengals.

Make that 14-7 at the half 30 seconds after Johnson's run.

"I was talking to Coach Zim and he was telling me that good safeties are secure tacklers," Ndukwe said. "That's something I have to work on. Make sure I know what the situation is and make every single tackle. Maybe it's not realistic but it's something I shoot for. Another thing he said is not every tackle has to be a big hit."

The misses came out of two different coverages, but both were zones and there was nobody behind Ndukwe either time after he dove at the feet.

"Sometimes you have to take a better angle or stay lower," Ndukwe said. "I just want to try and get them on the ground. That's the kind of player I am. I like to take my shots when I can. Sometimes I'll miss. I've got to be a little smarter when I take my shots. If I don't have anybody behind me it's probably not the best time to take a shot."

The Bengals need to be sure tackling in the run game because the Texans have an effective zone blocking scheme that features veteran Ahman Green, 71 yards from 9,000 career yards, and rookie Steve Slaton, a third-rounder whose 70.5 yards per game are third on a rookie list topped by Johnson at 91.5.

"Denver-style stuff; Slaton is the shiftier one," Ndukwe said. "It's all about maintaining your gap."

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