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Steelers notebook: Williams out of boot, but doesn't practice

| Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, 6:15 p.m.

DeAngelo Williams wasn't encumbered by a noticeable limp while walking into the Steelers' locker room after practice Wednesday, and he didn't have a walking boot on his right foot anymore.

But the Steelers' running back also didn't participate in practice three days before Saturday night's wild-card playoff game in Cincinnati.

Williams politely declined to speak to media, saying he was off to lift weights. There was no further update on the condition of his right foot three days after he left Sunday's regular-season finale following being tackled by Browns defensive lineman John Hughes III.

A.B. for MVP?

Including Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, the coaches for three of the past four Steelers opponents have lobbied for Antonio Brown to win the NFL's most valuable player award.

Lewis expressed his thoughts during a conference call Tuesday, six days after then-Browns coach Mike Pettine did the same. Denver's Gary Kubiak said it after Brown torched his team for 16 catches, 189 yards and two touchdowns Dec. 20.

But what does Brown think?

“Receivers never are the MVPs,” Brown said with a smile. “It's a quarterback league; it's all about the quarterbacks.”

Brown, who had 136 receptions for 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, suggested Carolina quarterback Cam Newton would probably be named league MVP.

It's about being cold

Several Steelers players — publicly at least — took a cue from their head coach Wednesday, who downplayed any aspects of the dislike between the Steelers and the rival Bengals during his news conference Tuesday.

“Just two football teams going at it,” is how tackle Marcus Gilbert described Saturday's game. Gilbert was one of the more vocal Steelers taking shots — subtle and overt, publicly and on social media — at the Bengals.

Gilbert, however, couldn't help but add, “Obviously, you never know what's going to happen when the ball is snapped.”

When it comes to the after-whistle skirmishes that were so much a part of the teams' meeting four weeks ago, the Steelers vowed to avoid them.

“There is a difference between intensity and foolishness,” linebacker James Harrison said. “There is a fine line. You have to be able to know when you are about to cross that line and not cross it.”

“It's being cold,” safety Mike Mitchell said. “We're not going to act like we like them. We're not going to do that, but at the same time ... in this sport, it's usually the calmer heads win. Obviously, we want to be as violent and physical as we can be ... but we don't want do it in any way that affects our team in a negative way.”

BleacherReport.com reported the league sent a memo to playoff teams to stress sportsmanship.

Healthy team

Williams was the only Steelers player to miss practice because of injury Wednesday, although linebacker Vince Williams sat out because of illness. Receiver Martavis Bryant has a neck injury that coach Mike Tomlin has repeatedly referred to as “minor,” and he practiced fully Wednesday.

Veterans William Gay, Harrison and Heath Miller were given the day off.

Familiar opponent

For the fifth time in the Ben Roethlisberger era, the Steelers will face a divisional opponent in the postseason. They're 3-1, beating Cincinnati after the 2005 season and Baltimore in 2008 and 2010 seasons, while losing to the Ravens last year.

Roethlisberger combined to throw six touchdown passes and no interceptions in the three wins; he had two interceptions and one touchdown pass during the 30-17 loss to Baltimore on Jan. 3, 2015.

He was torn as to whether playoff games against division rivals carry a different feel than postseason games against other teams.

“Yes and no; that's tough,” Roethlisberger said. “It's the postseason, so everything feels a little different. But I guess you're playing a division opponent for the third time, a rubber match or whatever you want to call it. So, yes, there's lots of tape you can look at I guess. That's the best way to say it: there's familiarity.”

Staff writers Jerry DiPaola and Mark Kaboly contributed to this report. Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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