Notes: Zimmer's Chief scout; Talking the fifth (defense); Polamalu to play


Mike Zimmer

Updated: 6:50 p.m.

Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer already talked to his son once Monday and expected to hit him again later. And a few more times this week. After all, Adam Zimmer is the assistant linebackers coach for a Chiefs defense that held the Steelers to just a touchdown during Pittsburgh's 13-9 win Sunday night in Kansas City.

"I watched every snap," Mike Zimmer said.  

He'll take all the help he can get even if his units haven't allowed a touchdown at Heinz Field in their last two trips to Pittsburgh. But Zimmer knows in Sunday's  game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) the Bengals can't come out like they did last Sunday against Cleveland or even against these Steelers 15 days ago at Paul Brown Stadium when they allowed 14 of their 24 points in the game's first 11 minutes.

"They've got so many weapons; they've got more weapons than they did," Zimmer said of those past two Heinz games the Bengals split. "You have to really be disciplined in run support because they make the corners tackle. You've got to pick your spots on (quarterback Ben) Roethlisberger and make sure he's not extending plays, which is hard to do. You've got to play great in the red zone.

"They've got burners (at receiver) and a Hall of Fame quarterback."

Zimmer is extremely worried about the Steelers second-best NFL third-down percentage of 48.9 percent.

"A lot of them are completions on third-and-eight plus plays. They must lead the league on third-and-eight plays," Zimmer said. "(Roethlisberger) finds them and hits them."

In the 24-17 loss back on Nov. 13, the Steelers hit 41.7 percent of their third downs and three of them were at least third-and-10 and one of them was a third-and-19 as Roethlisberger did his usual extending of plays in the pocket biding time for the receivers to get open. His belief seems to be that defenders can cover for only so long.

"He does that to everybody," Zimmer said.

While Zimmer says this defense isn't that much different without his best cover corner Leon Hall, lost for the season when he blew out his Achilles late in the first half against the Steelers, he and head coach Marvin Lewis are saying their coverage players have to play tighter.

ZIMMER CALL: Back when the Bengals were ranked No. 1 in defense in Weeks 4 and 5, Zimmer said to ask him around Thanksgiving what he thinks of his defense.

Here it is as of Monday after the Bengals gave up their most yards rushing of the season (134) to Cleveland and go into Pittsburgh ranked fifth, but held a team without a touchdown in the second half for the fourth time against the Browns.

"I think we're pretty good, I think we're a little inconsistent right now. We hit a little dip after where we were and now we have to climb back out of it. I don't think we're great but I think we're a solid defensive team that typically plays hard, plays smart. Until yesterday, we tackled pretty good. We have to tackle better and clean some things up. Improve coverage and I'm not talking about the DBs but the linebackers too.

"I still don't think we put fear in anyone's heart when they see us. I don't think we're the '85 Bears. I think they think we're a sound fundamental defensive team that's going to give you a full day's work."

POLAMALU UP: Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu has been cleared to play this Sunday aftter being sidelined Sunday night following a play he made a tackle with his head.

SLANTS AND SCREENS

» Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh ripped off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's helmet way back in the preseason opener and while left tackle Andrew Whitworth didn't have words with him then because the play happened so fast, he remains thoroughly unimpressed with the embattled Pro Bowler after the Thanksgiving incident in which he stomped a Packers offensive lineman.

"I don't say the guy's dirty by any means, but I do say what he did was classless and it can't happen," Whitworth said. "You can tussle, you can push and shove, but when you try to ram a guy's head into the ground and try to stomp him, a guy should be suspended. Bottom line."

The play in Detroit happened so fast that Whitworth didn't know what happened until he watched tape. He didn't like the view.

"That kind of stuff is just stupid," Whitworth said. "I'm not going to give him credit and say he's a dirty player. That's just cheap. That's not dirty. Great. You can grab a quarterback and throw him down when he's not expecting it. It doesn't make you tough. It doesn't make you a better player.

"Football is played whistle to whistle and as long as he's playing hard with tons of energy and passion to those whistles, then there's nothing wrong with how he plays. But it's the stuff after that is just stupid."

» After his huge fourth-quarter sack Sunday of Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, Cincinnati's Geno Atkins leads NFL defensive tackles with 6.5 sacks with a half-sack lead on future Hall of Famer Richard Seymour of Oakland.

Zimmer says Atkins is stronger than last year and better against the run while still keeping his quickness on the pass and calls him an excellent fit for what teams need from the player next to the nose tackle, otherwise known as the three technique.

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