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Johnson expects to celebrate against Steelers

| Thursday, Nov. 18, 2004

CINCINNATI -- Chad Johnson says he's ready to celebrate a touchdown catch against the Steelers on Sunday.

His coach sounds like he's ready to throttle him.

The Cincinnati Bengals' chatty receiver asked fans Wednesday to bring donations to cover the fine he'll receive for a planned touchdown celebration against the Steelers.

"I need all fans to bring a dollar to the gate," Johnson said. "Don't forget. There will be a bucket. Bring a dollar to the gate this week. Next week, I need everybody to bring a bottle of Pepto."

That's the last thing that coach Marvin Lewis wanted to hear heading into a make-or-break game. Informed of the receiver's latest whimsy, he sat in silent surprise for a few seconds.

"It's not a wise thing," Lewis finally said, with annoyance in his eyes and disappointment in his tone. "It's not his fine that's as significant as if we get a penalty."

Or, a pumped-up opponent.

The Pro Bowl receiver has repeatedly angered Lewis by guaranteeing victories and tweaking opponents leading up to games. His most famous outburst -- guaranteeing a victory against previously unbeaten Kansas City last season -- drew attention and divided the locker room. Several veterans told him it isn't wise to rile up the opposition.

Despite a promise to change this season, Johnson has found it tough to keep quiet.

He sent bottles of Pepto-Bismol to Cleveland defensive backs before their game Oct. 17, along with handwritten notes saying they'd get sick trying to cover him. Johnson had the worst game of his career, and the Bengals lost 34-17 to an inspired team that clearly took offense.

Lewis took him aside afterward, and Baltimore's Ray Lewis called Johnson with some advice: Keep your mouth shut and play.

With a pivotal game at hand, he's at it again.

A 17-10 victory over Washington improved the Bengals to 4-5 heading into their rematch with the Steelers (8-1). A victory would leave Cincinnati with three consecutive wins, a little momentum and an outside chance to make the playoffs. But the closing schedule is daunting.

Unprovoked, Johnson said the capacity crowd at Paul Brown Stadium can expect a show.

"That means I've got a special celebration when I hit the end zone," Johnson said. "Bring a dollar to the gate for my fine."

Johnson was fined for three touchdown celebrations last season: $5,000 for a photo pose with teammate Peter Warrick in the end zone, $5,000 for a throat-slash gesture to the crowd, and $10,000 for holding up a pre-printed sign that read: "Dear NFL: Please don't fine me again."

Before this season started, Johnson promised a new touchdown celebration, one that wouldn't draw a 15-yard penalty under the NFL's stricter rules. He has yet to unveil it -- he's had only two touchdown catches all season.

His first came while the Bengals trailed in the opener against the Jets, the wrong time to use it. The other catch came in a Monday night victory over Denver, but Johnson had been warned by the Bengals not to do anything to call attention to himself on national television.

"I was told not to celebrate before the game started," he said then.

Johnson gave Pittsburgh's defense unusually glowing praise yesterday before getting around to his end zone plans.

"This defense is a little different from everybody that we've played," Johnson said. "Watching them on film, it's unbelievable. It's sort of unfair what they have out there on the defense. Seriously. Just looking at the names, the personnel you have to go against, there's no weak link where you can attack."

His celebration comment made sure there would be no letdown, either.

At least, he doesn't plan to get into any pregame tussles with the Steelers' Joey Porter.

"Talking trash to Pittsburgh wouldn't make any sense because I know everyone personally. So, then, no one is going to take me seriously, and they are just going to laugh at me."

Tribune-Review Steelers writer Jerry DiPaola contributed to this story.

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