By Teresa Varley
The Steelers were back at work on Monday after a four-day break thanks to their bye that gave players a chance to rest their bodies and get ready for the long road ahead.
"It's definitely refreshing," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "You get a chance to get away from football and spend time with family and friends. For us it was a necessity because we have guys who were banged up. Training camp was so long and the bye week was the half way point. Now we have 11 straight games."
That stretch begins this week in Cincinnati when they will face an 0-6 Bengals team that is dealing with injuries as well, most notable being quarterback Carson Palmer. Palmer did not play in the Bengals 26-14 loss to the New York Jets at the Meadowlands as he had inflammation in his elbow, a result of a strain he suffered against the Giants on Sept. 21.
Palmer remained in New York until Monday to be examined and get a second opinion from New York Mets team doctor David Altchek, but still will miss Sunday's game against the Steelers. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will start against the Steelers, started his second game of the season for the Bengals on Sunday against the Jets and while he had a stronger performance, the absence of Palmer is noticeable.
"They are not quite the same team without him," said linebacker James Farrior. "Carson is the leader of the team. He runs the show. He gets everybody in place and doing what they are supposed to be doing. Without him it's a big loss."
One thing the Steelers do have to protect themselves against is looking past the Bengals because of their record. Talking to the players, it's something that doesn't appear like it will be a problem.
"In this profession, in this day and age, we don't get caught up in records," said Ward. "We know on any given Sunday any team can win. They aren't a bad team. They have had a hard time of finding ways to win the games. They still have great playmakers over there. And it's a divisional game. Any time you play a divisional game records don't matter."
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who hails from Findley, Ohio and always likes playing against Ohio teams, agrees.
"It doesn't matter what their record is," said Roethlisberger, who practiced on Monday. "It's a divisional game. It's Cincinnati. There is always that extra motivation to beat a divisional team."
Running back Willie Parker returned to practice on Monday and is looking forward to getting back on the field against the Bengals this week.
"I'm ready to play," said Parker. "I went out there and my main focus was to get my timing down, just practicing so I can help the team out the best way I can Sunday. I can pick it right back up, that's no problem. I have enough motivation and self-pride, that's not a problem."
Safety Ryan Clark was sporting a new look on Monday, but not one that he was too fond of.
Clark wore an orange and blue University of Florida wig, the result of his LSU Tigers losing to Max Starks' Gators on Saturday.