'Underdog' Steelers arrive at training camp

| Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Steelers signed guard/center Maurkice Pouncey on Friday, assuring all of their able-bodied players will take part in the team's first practices of the season today.

The signing of Pouncey, who traveled from Florida to Pittsburgh on Friday, means the Steelers haven't had a first-round draft pick miss a practice because of a contract situation since 2004.

Yet on the day that the Steelers officially reported for training camp at St. Vincent College, several developments may have trumped the Pouncey signing. Foremost among them was left tackle Max Starks calling out Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco — and perhaps sending a broader message that the Steelers have plenty of fire in them after underachieving in 2009.

Starks said Ochocinco aroused his ire during a recent episode of the latter's reality TV show, "Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch."

"As I was walking past the room (in his house), the TV was on, and I think (Ochocinco) made the statement: 'The last time we've seen this many girls on the field was the last time we played the Steelers,' " the normally mild-mannered Starks recalled. "I wish I played defense at that moment.

"Chad is who he is, but some things you don't say. Yes, you're trying to get TV ratings and trying to further your career, and I applaud that. But don't talk about the other team, especially if you know you're going to see them twice in a year, and you haven't had the best success in your entire career against that team."

But Starks' reaction notwithstanding, the Steelers actually welcome anybody to underestimate them.

"We like being the underdogs," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said.

The Steelers have not played well with high expectations in recent years, failing to make the playoffs the season after winning the Super Bowl in 2005 and again last year.

"We'd rather have nobody talking about us," center Justin Hartwig said. "That suits us just fine. Everyone on the outside is talking about how the Bengals and the Ravens are predicted to finish first and second in our division, and that's great."

The Ravens traded for Anquan Boldin, one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL, during the offseason, and his addition could make them a Super Bowl contender. The Bengals, who are the defending AFC North champions, created a buzz earlier this week when they signed wide receiver Terrell Owens.

Watching Ochocinco and Owens share the spotlight (and football) in Cincinnati may prove to be reality TV at its best, and Starks couldn't resist taking a few swipes at the duo.

"If (the Bengals) can get two quarterbacks in at the same time with two footballs, it will be a very good system for them because it will keep both of them very happy," Starks said. "They're trying to become the Miami Heat of the NFL. We'll see how that works with two emerging attitudes and flamboyance."

While Ochocinco struck a nerve with Starks, nose tackle Casey Hampton shrugged off the receiver's comment.

"Chad is Chad," Hampton said. "We don't worry about that because we know on the field that it is entirely different. If he feels like we are women, then we will see. It is not a big deal."

It is to Starks, who said he plans to remind his teammates of what Ochocinco said the week before the Steelers play the Bengals in early November.

"I've already gotten a DVR of it," Starks said, "just in case somebody needs additional motivation."

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