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Coach makes no promises regarding Bettis

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2001

Steelers coach Bill Cowher did nothing Monday to clear up the mystery surrounding running back Jerome Bettis' return to the lineup.

Bettis has missed the past three games with a groin injury, and Cowher said that Bettis is "doing better," but he couldn't even promise that Bettis will practice when the team returns to work Wednesday. He did upgrade him to questionable on the injury list, indicating that Bettis has a 50-50 chance of playing Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"Hopefully, we'll get him on the field this week and kind of go from there," Cowher said. "I want to see him work on the field in practice. A lot of it is based on how he feels. We'll see how the week unfolds and see whether or not it's this week or next week."

With two games left in the regular season, Cowher hopes to get Bettis into a game before the first playoff game, either Jan. 19 or 20.

"If the guy's healthy, he needs to play," Cowher said. "The longer you go, you do lose a degree of the timing that's involved. You cannot simulate that timing in practice."

Cowher also was not happy when asked if the injury involves more than Bettis' groin. When he initially was injured Nov. 25 against the Tennessee Titans, Bettis mentioned a hip injury that spread to his groin and abdominal wall, but Cowher said it just a groin injury.

"There is no problem with the hip," Cowher said. "There's never been a problem with the hip. It's his groin."

Cowher also listed right guard Rich Tylski (ribs) and backup running back Amos Zereoue (shoulder) as questionable. Tylski didn't play Sunday against the Detroit Lions and was replaced by Oliver Ross. Zereoue had two carries for 34 yards, and he "really had no setbacks," Cowher said.

Five players are probable: Outside linebacker Joey Porter (shoulder), inside linebacker Earl Holmes (knee), defensive end Aaron Smith (abdominal strain), backup outside linebacker Clark Haggans (shoulder) and backup cornerback Jason Simmons (hamstring).

FU'S BEST GAME

Cowher said Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, who rushed for 126 yards on 26 carries against the Lions, ran with better vision.

"Here it is his third game (as a starter) and he started to get a feel for it. You could see his decision-making, a lot of the cuts he made were quicker than they had been in the past."

NO APOLOGIES

Outside linebacker Jason Gildon had two sacks against the Lions, giving him 60½ for his career and moving him past Keith Willis and into third place on the Steelers' all-time list. Gildon has the team lead with 10, and Porter is second with nine. Last year, Gildon and Porter combined for 24.

BY THE NUMBERS

Holmes' fumble recovery against the Lions was his first of the season and third of his career. ... Cornerback Dewayne Washington's interception was his first of 2001 and the 25th of his career. ... Kordell Stewart threw for 200 yards (226) for the 23rd time in his career, seventh this season. Fifteen of the 23 were recorded this year and in 1997. ... The Steelers' 27 points before halftime were the most the team has scored in the first half in four years. ... The Steelers have had at least one 40-point game in seven of 10 seasons under Cowher. ... The Steelers have converted 92 of 200 third-down opportunities (46 percent).

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