Posted: 6:10 a.m.
The offensive line is the critics' hot corner these days and with Cleveland in town the chic thing to do is point to the departure of left guard Eric Steinbach to the Browns as a seminal moment.
But talk to the Bengal most likely to become a GM in wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh as he notes the rise of third-year left guard Andrew Whitworth.
"I don't see the dropoff," Houshmandzadeh said Wednesday. "Yeah, Steiny was a big part of it. He was here when we started winning and he's one of the best guards in the league. He and Whit are two different players. Each one does things better than the other.
"Whit is good. The bottom line is that Whit can play. If he keeps it up like this and we win some games, he'll be over in Hawaii."
It looks like Whitworth has Justin Tuck's Pro Bowl vote, too.
"He said he'd never seen Tuck so frustrated and what a great game I'd played," Whitworth said. "That was nice to hear, but you're still dragging after a game like that that you should have won."
For the third straight week the Bengals need another Pro Bowl performance from him because 370-pound or so Shaun Rogers is standing in the way. Like Tuck, Rogers is going to be over Whitworth in nickel and dime passing situations.
"He's like (Albert) Haynesworth," Whitworth said of Tennessee's man mountain he played two weeks ago. "Shaun is a big guy and powerful. But the thing is, he can move. That's what makes those guys so special. You get a big guy with some quickness, and he's tough to handle."
Steinbach has done a great job settling Cleveland's line and helping All-World rookie left tackle Joe Thomas settle in last year. He's fighting a shoulder injury and might not play this week.
"Steiny is a great technician; a great athlete, real good leverage," Whitworth said. "I'm a mixture of both (power and technique).
"I've felt I've played well against two top-notch guys, but I'm not going to be happy until we can get some wins. Everybody has to do more."
It's easy to forget, but Whitworth came to the Bengals not as a guard, but as an LSU tackle that played 52 straight games.
"I don't care where I play," he said. "As long as we win games."
"On the previous play when T.J. caught the ball, it appeared to Carson he had a first down. If it's first-and-goal from there (the Giants 14), he'll kill the clock with a called play and then call maybe two plays and try to get it into the zone. Take the shots.
"He had started the process to (spike it). From upstairs it looked like a first down, but then we started to see him kill it and we realized it was third down (and 1), and we just started the process to run the play (the 11-yard pass to Antonio Chatman). The kill formation is a completely different one than the one we (changed to). So it took us awhile to get realigned and the play itself had a shot at the end zone. They overlapped on top of Chad and put Antonio inside with a good matchup."
The Bengals had one timeout left and wanted to make sure they had it to get the field-goal unit on the field.