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Notes: Dalton watches Wednesday; Thompson to IR; Matchup since 7th grade; Antonio eyes Chad


So much for getting the cast off.

Quarterback Andy Dalton dressed in sweats Wednesday morning during the team's first full-scale preparation for Saturday night's Wild Card Game (8:15-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against the Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium. That puts him ever closer to the out category. The closest he came to wearing a helmet came when carrying the one that belongs to rookie defensive lineman Marcus Hardison.

Also out Wednesday was H-Back Ryan Hewitt (knee), who hasn't worked since injuring his knee in Denver Dec. 28.

THOMPSON TO IR: On Wednesday backup defensive tackle Brandon Thompson became the second player to go on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury received in last Sunday's win over Baltimore. And like they did with SAM backer Emmanuel Lamur they replaced him with an undrafted rookie in defensive tackle DeShawn Wiliams.

But unlike linebacker Trevor Roach, Williams is probably going to be inactive Saturday. Thompson, a 2012 third-round pick who is scheduled to be a free agent, has played in nine games and been inactive in seven. When he hasn't played Pat Sims has and the eight-year veteran figures to get the call for his second post-season game with Cincinnati. Sims was on injured reserve for the 2009 and 2011 postseasons.

MUTUAL RESPECT: For all the stupid stuff that went on the last time the Bengals played the Steelers, not to mention the $138,000 in fines that were handed out, there is a lot of mutual respect here. You don't have to go any further than the matchup between Bengals left guard Clint Boling and Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward.

They've been playing each other since seventh grade, when they grew up 30 minutes apart in the Atlanta area, Boling in Alpharetta, Ga., and Heyward in Suwanee, Ga. The rivalry continued when Boling went to Chattahoochee and Heyward to Peachtree Ridge high schools. They even took their recruiting trips to the University of Georgia on the same weekend, but Heyward and committed to Ohio State while Boling stayed home.  

"It was seventh grade basketball," Boling said. "We guarded each other. Both big guys. We weren't out at the three-point line.  I followed his career and it's funny, you see him go in the first round (in 2011) and in the same year I go to the same division (in the fourth round)."

And it's a high-level battle. rated Boling one of the top 25 guards in the NFL this season and Heyward is the sixth-rated 3-4 defensive as a fine two-way player who leads the Steelers with seven sacks.

"We don't have much to say to each other when we're playing,' Boling said. "I saw him a few years ago in Atlanta for an event and we talked a little bit. He seems like a good guy. I wanted to congratulate him after one of the games this year because I read his wife was pregnant, but I didn't see him going off the field. The guy plays hard. You can expect that from him every snap and he's a really good player."

BROWN EYES CHAD: Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is coming off another one of the greatest seasons in NFL history. A year after amassing the eighth most yards of all-time in a single season, he posted the fourth most with 1,834 yards and is taking dead aim at Chad Johnson's record.

In becoming the all-time Bengals leading receiver, Johnson became the first player to lead his conference in receiving yards in four straight seasons, from 2003-06. Brown has led the AFC in back-to-back seasons, and it turns out that he used to watch his fellow Miami product even though he's 5-10, 181 pounds and Johnson played at 6-1, 192.

"(Johnson) was a big guy who could get in and out of breaks well," Brown said on his conference call with the Cincinnati media Wednesday. "Not only being a deep threat, he could run an immediate route, or come back. He was quick on his break and could get down the field really well. He was a great route-runner who could do deep whenever you needed it.

"I watched Santana Moss, Marvin Harrison, who was one of my favorites," Brown said. "I was also watching Mike Irvin, Jerry Rice. I emulate some of those guys and loved the way they went about their business."

Hall-of-Famers Tim Brown in Oakland and Jerry Rice in San Francisco led their conferences three straight years.

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