Bernard Scott is kicking into gear just in time for his return engagement at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, scene of his historic charge in the Battle of 18-12 for a 96-yard kick return and the game's only touchdown.
Don't look now, but ever since he returned a kick 46 yards against the Steelers five games ago, Scott is reeling off 29.4 yards per his last 24 returns. That number would be leading the NFL right now, but the previous 19 weren't as good and he's in 25th place with a 22.9 average. Yet after he very nearly turned last Sunday's game upside down with an oh-so-close 47-yard return with 31 seconds left, his unit has some momentum heading into the matchup with the improved Steelers coverage team that is ranked eighth in the league.
"Once I made the kicker miss and I got past No. 50 (linebacker Marvin Mitchell), I was by myself," said Scott of that final shot. "I didn't even feel the dude that tackled me. I didn't see him until too late. (Safety Pierson Prioleau) got knocked down, got back up, and made the play. I'm thinking it's six."
Head coach Marvin Lewis says the return shows just how much his team thought it could win and wants to win and Scott agrees. When the Saints decided to kick it to him at the 2, Scott thought there was a chance.
"I'm pretty sure all the blockers were thinking the same thing," Scott said.
It was their best day of the season with two of the five returns of plus-40 yards for a 33-yard average on 165 yards. Scott had 205 yards on five returns at Heinz last year, the third-best day in Bengals history on a unit that was drastically revamped during this past preseason. The glut of injuries in the secondary has also changed things up in the last month, but in each of the last five games Scott has a return of at least 30 yards.
"Everybody is doing their job; putting a hat on a hat and running," Scott said of the improvement. "A lot of it was me and some of it was up front, too. I was trying to make a big play every time instead of letting the instincts take over."
If he keeps going at his season's pace, Scott will end up with 1,312 yards on 57 returns, which would be the fourth and third highest totals in team history, respectively. If he finishes with the pace of the last five games, he'll end up with 1,548 yards, 14 yards shy of Tab Perry's 2005 record, for a 24.9 average, fifth best in history. Right now, that would raise him 11 rungs in the current NFL rankings.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Sunday's matchup to watch: Bengals rookie left end Carlos Dunlap and his 4.5 sacks in the last four games against right tackle Trai Essex. Essex is a tackle switched to guard and now he has to go back to tackle with the injury to Flozell Adams and becomes the third Steelers right tackle of the season because Adams replaced Willie Colon when he injured his Achilles in preseason. The Pittsburgh line has performed remarkably in the face of devastating injuries. Both starting tackles are down and only one spot has had the same starter in all 12 games.
» It looks like tight end Heath Miller isn't going to play, either, and the Steelers will be dealing with a new punter.
» The Steelers also get a banged-up quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger off surgery for his broken nose that he'll protect with a shield against the Bengals on Sunday. He's also coping with a sprained foot. But just like the better he throws with more defenders hanging on him, the better he plays with every injury.
» Right guard Clint Boling came up big again this holiday season when he anchored the fifth annual "Shop With a Bengal" at the Eastgate Toys"R"Us for 40 children from the St. Vincent de Paul Adopt-A-Family program. Each child had the opportunity to select his or her own Christmas presents, valued up to $300 on donations from players. They were also encouraged to select a gift for a sibling or parent. Joining Williams were Michael Johnson, Andrew Whitworth, Domata Peko and Vincent Rey.