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No celebrating with Kordell

11-21-02, 8:10 a.m.


The last time the Bengals played Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart, they picked him off four times in Cincinnat's 26-23 victory back on Dec. 30.

But the Bengals are nowhere near relieved that they are facing Stewart again Sunday instead of Tommy Maddox. At least they knew where Maddox was going to be – in the pocket _ when he led last month's 34-7 Steeler victory

"We're not afraid of Kordell, but the things he can do raises eyebrows," said cornerback Artrell Hawkins. "And you have to be careful how you prepare for him because a guy like that can hurt you."

The Kordell the Bengals fear beat them, 16-7, in Pittsburgh last year when he ran in a quarterback draw from eight yards out and then, with the game on the line in the last few minutes with the Bengals trailing, 13-7, he stepped back to hit a back-breaking 24-yard pass on third-and-five.

"Kordell brings the dimension of trick plays," said linebacker Takeo Spikes. "He can do so many things.

He can drop back. He can run a reverse. He can run a draw. He scramble with it."

And, as Hawkins said, "We don't usually do well against scrambling quarterbacks. Anyone with a strong arm and quick feet causes you problems."

Alluding to the Stewart-inspired trickery, LeBeau called on the "Pink Panther," defense: "I suspect no one and I suspect everyone."

The main suspect to get more playing time is strong safety JoJuan Armour. He lost his starting job in training camp, and then again after the third game of the season because of his pass coverage limitations. But some feel at least part of the Bengals' woes against the run is because he hasn't been in there as often as he was last year. LeBeau said the linebacker-ish Armour should see more time Sunday.

It was the week after the Steelers pounded for 275 yards on the ground last year (Stewart had 62 of them on nine carries) that Armour got his promotion. Without running back Jerome Bettis, the Steelers had just 73 yards rushing and Stewart had no rushes in the Dec. 30 game. Armour is usually the "spy," mirroring a scrambling quarterback's moves, but he said he won't do it this this week.

"We didn't do it last year. We just relied on our front line to get pressure," Armour said. "You've got to always have someone in his face. He's not going to sit in the pocket. It's going to be one read and he's gone. A lot of people get are down on Kordell now because he's not having a good a year passing. But he's the same guy who gave them great success last year (AFC runnerups) and he can still make big plays against you."

The Bengals have lived it.

"You have to keep him in the pocket," Hawkins said. "If he breaks contain, it's going to be a long day if you don't."

SLANTS AND POSTS: The Bengals expect CB Jeff Burris to play this week after missing most of last week's games with migraine headaches. All tests have been negative. . .

When he saw the media crowded around WR Chad Johnson's locker Wednesday, QB Jon Kitna joked loudly, "Guarantee it, Chad." Johnson didn't do it this week, but after a chat with Browns linebacker Earl Holmes

following Sunday's game that he did guarantee, Johnson wouldn't rule it out in the future.

"He talked to me like a Kitna would. A big brother type," Johnson said of Holmes. "I told him I did it for us, for my team and nothing against the Browns. He understood, but he told me to be more careful next time. But if I see the situation again during the season, I would do it again to get us fired up." . . .

The Bengals' braintrust of president Mike Brown and head coach Dick LeBeau is solidly in Ohio State's corner this week against Michigan. Both, of course, we involved in Buckeye national championships, LeBeau as a player in 1957, and Brown's father Paul coached them to a national title in the early '40s.

"In a lot of ways, it's my college," said Mike Brown, who played at Dartmouth. More Ohio State players have played for the Bengals than anyone else with 18. And LeBeau reminded the media Wednesday his Buckeyes beat Michigan three out of four years. . .

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