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Steelers to keep working on passing game

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2001

The Steelers' passing game has hit a low point, falling to 30th in the 31-team NFL.

Only the Dallas Cowboys are averaging fewer aerial yards per game than the Steelers' 127.2.

"We missed a couple of big plays the other day," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said pertaining to the 17-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "We're going to have to be able to do it."

He pointed to the long pass thrown by Kordell Stewart that was intercepted by Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber as an example.

"I'd like to have seen Kordell throw the ball a little farther," Cowher said. "(Plaxico Burress) got by him."

But Cowher added that some of the responsibility for the interception rests with Burress.

"I'd like to see Plaxico come back, even though it was underthrown, and somehow break the play up. I put that on both of them," he said.

Cowher won't allow the Steelers to get away from what they do best - run the ball - especially when the team has a lead in the second half.

"We've shut (the passing game) down a little bit in the second half the last couple weeks," he said. "We're playing to win the football game, not just to develop one part of our football team.

"But we're going to have to keep working on it. We're going to have to be more efficient. We are what we are right now, with the recognition if we have to open this thing up and air it out, we can do that."

OWNERS' ARRIVAL

More than 25 of the 32 NFL owners are expected to be in Pittsburgh starting Monday for a league meeting that will conclude Wednesday. Among the issues to be discussed at the Hilton Hotel is the proposed two-year extension to the collective bargaining agreement between players and owners.

The current agreement is due to expire after the 2004 season, and both sides are hoping to extend it to 2006.

"I don't anticipate it's going to be a problem," Steelers president Dan Rooney said.

The meeting was scheduled to coincide with the Monday night game at Heinz Field between the Steelers and Tennessee Titans to expose the new stadium to the owners and a large contingent of national media.

INJURY UPDATE

Backup cornerback Jason Simmons is the most seriously injured Steelers players, and he is just questionable with a sore hamstring.

"Hopefully, the extra day will allow him to play on Monday night," Cowher said.

Listed as probable are safeties Brent Alexander (hip), Lee Flowers (groin) and Myron Bell (hamstring), wide receiver Hines Ward (ankle), defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen (groin) and offensive tackle Marvel Smith (knee). A few of them could miss practice today.

EXTRA POINTS

The Steelers had only one penalty against the Buccaneers. ... Opponents have hit only two passes longer than 25 yards in five games against the Steelers. ... Stewart's completion percentage and passer rating on third down is 66.7 and 81.5, second and fourth in the AFC. "His decision-making has been pretty good," Cowher said. "He's making the big plays for us. He's keeping the drives going."

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