Updated: 4:15 p.m.
The one thing about this James Harrison guy. What you see is what you get.
Harrison, the Bengals SAM linebacker, made his long-awaited media room appearance Friday before practice in anticipation of Monday night's (8:40-ESPN, Cincinnati's Channel 5) showdown with his old friends from Pittsburgh at Paul Brown Stadium and the answers were as brusque and to the point as his blue-collar play that defined the Steelers defense for a decade.
Asked about how special a Monday Night game is given he's got 9.5 sacks in those games, Harrison offered, "I guess it's a little more special because it's the only game on. I don't come into the game with any more or any less than I do compared to Sunday 1:00 games. I guess I'm a little luckier on Mondays I guess."
Get the idea? Harrison isn't about to put any fodder on the Heinz Field bulletin board. When he was asked if he let his kids still wear Steelers stuff he said he sure did.
"Why not?" he asked. "They took good care of me and my kids."
Which is exactly how Harrison views it and you have to believe him because he's been pretty consistent about playing Pittsburgh ever since he signed on back in April.
"It's about where I'm making my money at and that's who I am going to be with. If you go to another newspaper you're not going to be loyal to the other one are you?" Harrison asked. "You all can't seem to understand that concept; it's a job. Yeah I enjoyed the guys who I worked with and I'm thankful for everything the organization and the Rooney family did for me but right now I'm with the Bengals and going to put everything I have into helping them win. Same thing I did with the Steelers."
So that pay cut the Steelers wanted to give Harrison and not to other aging veterans?
"I don't know what guys are making," he said. "It's part of the business. It doesn't bother me."
But he was able to go a little light-hearted about facing Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and their running repartee about how many times Harrison actually sacked him while he was playing at Kent State and Roethlisberger was at Miami University.
"It was three fulls and two halves so I'm going to call it five," Harrison said with a laugh. "To be honest with you I just know the numbers. He jokes about it that he's the reason I'm in the league."
Harrison says practicing against Roethlisberger for so long won't do him much good since practice speed just isn't the same.
"It wasn't that hard to bring him down then," he said of the Miami Roethlisberger. "It's a lot harder to get him down now. He's elusive, he's a big guy and it's like he has a third eye, where and when to step and avoid pressure."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Before Friday's practice, left tackle Andrew Whitworth said his knee felt good after he practiced on it Thursday. Although he was listed as limited, he said he went at it pretty hard and is encouraged the way it bounced back. He was also listed as limited Friday, when cornerback Brandon Ghee (concussion) was out after returning Thursday from several weeks off. Safety Jeromy Miles (hamstring) and guard-center Mike Pollak (knee) have not worked all week.
Steelers tight end Heath Miller, who badly injured his knee in Cincinnati's win in Pittsburgh back in December, is hoping to make his season debut. He was limited again Friday.
» Here's one guy hoping Whitworth plays Monday, one Willie Aaron Anderson. Whitworth and Anderson texted back and forth Thursday with Whitworth congratulating Anderson on becoming eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Anderson checking on Whitworth's condition.
"Whit deserves the Monday night spotlight," said Anderson, ever mindful of offensive linemen getting overlooked. "He's one of the big reasons they've been able to get back to this success."
Anderson, who watches every NFL game as well as Red Zone with his teenaged son (WR/QB Jair suddenly turns 16 next week), also enjoyed watching Anthony Collins's performance in place of Whitworth last Sunday in Chicago.
"AC's been a good player for a long time," Anderson said. "My son and I watch all the games all around the league and I've told him so many lies. That's what old guys do."
What isn't a lie, of course, is that Anderson is the best right tackle in Bengals history and the NFL's best at the turn of his century. Anderson doesn't know if that's enough to get him voted in, but he's also thinking about that Hall bid for Cincinnati's other Anderson, all-time passing leader Kenny Anderson.
"I think we were all hoping that if we had success, that would pave the way for Ken," Willie Anderson said. "The one thing I do know is that it's great how these young guys are playing and it keeps the Bengals fresh in people's minds."
And make no mistake, Anderson is a big Bengals fan. Especially of the defense.
"I was telling one of my boys yesterday, if we had this defense in '05 or '06, there's no question I'd be going to the Hall of Fame," Anderson said. "Those guys are like a high school or college all-star team. I mean, they've got six guys that can get six sacks. No disrespect to the guys I played with, but how great would it have been to play with guys like Geno (Atkins) and Carlos (Dunlap)?"
Anderson's not too sure how it's all going to pan out.
"I do think from '99-06 I was the best right tackle. I do think I was that guy," he said. "I don't know what will happen. All I know is after five years, it's nice to hear your name called again."
» Here's something you don't see every day. DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players Association, visited with Bengals president Mike Brown during the early part of Friday's practice. Smith's visit probably means the Bengals will have their annual player rep vote and Whitworth as the head rep and Leon Hall as the alternate would appear to be the favorites again.
TAYLOR-MADE BACK: Call him the Taylor-Made Back.
"I get in trouble if I call him a linebacker," linebackers coach Paul Guenther said of Taylor Mays. "He didn't miss a beat at whatever you want to call what he's doing."
Mays, a safety, has been one of the answers to cover backer Emmanuel Lamur's season-ending injury. While the nickel snaps were split among guys like middle backers Rey Maualuga and Vinnie Rey, Mays played 13 in what looked to be a backer role last Sunday in Chicago.
Proof that the Bengals seem to like what Mays is doing is that they have worked out three veteran backers in the last week (Thomas Howard, Michael Boley and Leroy Hill) and haven't signed one of them.
"(Mays) did well and hopefully he'll continue to grow in his role," Guenther said.
One guy the Bengals are really happy with is WILL backer Vontaze Burfict. Burfict played all but one of the 64 snaps against the Bears wearing the Zim-Ear helmet connected to the headset of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and he picked up where he left off last season with 14 tackles as credited by the coaches film study. Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga also has a Zim-Ear helmet in case Burfict has to get off the field, like he did when he got drilled in the thigh returning his pick.
"People make too much out of the helmet," Guenther said. "He's wearing the helmet because he's in the game in the nickel and you have to have a guy with the helmet on the field all the time. Rey has one in case he goes down, but (Burfict) has handled it well."