Posted: 6:30 p.m.
Andrew Whitworth has been here before.
At left tackle against an NFL Defensive Player of the Year. At left tackle against one of the Steelers Mad Men coming off the edge. He's in just his fourth NFL season and at the tender age of 27 has been through a career full of trench warfare.
So when he looks up Sunday and sees Pittsburgh outside linebacker and Super Bowl hero James Harrison looking for his first sack after his 16 candles of last season, Whitworth has lived it to recognize a trend.
"Short, explosive, powerful guys that can give big, old tackles problems," Whitworth said this week. "They can jump around but they've got enough strength they can get up and under big old guys."
With the help of Peyton Manning and an indoor crowd, that's what the Colts tandem of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis showed Whitworth when he was a rookie in 2006 when they picked him and another young tackle, Stacy Andrews, for three sacks. Later that same year in Denver, Elvis Dumervil gave Whitworth some tough snaps, but the next week in the season finale against the Steelers, Whitworth came off the bench early at left tackle and blanked the dangerous Joey Porter.
Now he's three years wiser.
"Harrison is like a Freeney, a Mathis, a Trent Cole," Whitworth said. "It's a trend with these quick guys than can also pop you."
Whitworth isn't discouraged by his two holding calls in Green Bay or the miscommunication with new left guard Evan Mathis that allowed a couple of interior pressures. Neither, he said, is a physical problem.
"Holding calls are holding calls," Whitworth said. "You can't stop being aggressive, but what do you do? You can't just let it happen. If you feel a guy is getting away from you a little bit, you have to let him go. But holding calls are on the field every play; it's just whether they're getting called. They could call holding every time."
Whitworth, an offensive co-captain, is passing that word to his linemates. He is Cincinnati's second-most experienced lineman and his advice is to forget the last play. Which is what his teammates did after a glut of penalties and gaffes in the Packers win. In hanging in there to pick up 151 yards rushing and three Carson Palmer touchdown passes, the offensive line picked up an identity.
"As long as we don't reflect on the past and look to the future, we'll be fine," Whitworth said. "We've got a lot of toughness, a lot of smarts. We're not saying we're the greatest, but we're going to bring it every play and be in the right spot and that's what you've got to do at this position."