On the Steelers: Unfriendly reunion awaits some old friends

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When Carlos Dunlap lines up at left defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals, all he has to do is look down the Steelers offensive line to see some old friends.

Not that they will be exchanging pleasantries during the 1 p.m. AFC North Division game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Dunlap, who comes into the game in passing situations, is part of an eight-man rotation the Bengals use in their defensive line. When he plays, he will line up against right tackle Marcus Gilbert, his former University of Florida teammate. If he looks to his right, he will see another ex-Gator and friend, Maurkice Pouncey, at center.

And, if he wants to crane his neck, he will see another Florida alum, Max Starks, at the other end of the Steelers offensive line at right tackle.

Rest assured, they will not be doing any Gator Chomp when they are on the field at the same time.

"Between those white lines, when you step on field, no friends," said Gilbert, the Steelers rookie right tackle.

"We'll be going crazy during the game," Pouncey said. "But, after the game, we show Florida love."


Sunday

Game: Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals, 8:20 p.m.

Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati.

When: 1 p.m.

TV: KDKA.


The Steelers will not have time for frivolity against the Bengals (6-2), who have parlayed the play of rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie wide receiver A.J. Green with a defense that is second against the run and fourth in total yards allowed in the NFL to tie for the AFC North lead with the Baltimore Ravens.

And they have to be especially careful with Dunlap, a second-round pick in 2010 who likely is the best pass-rusher on a unit that relies on its four-man line to generate pressure on the quarterback. The Bengals have 20 sacks in eight games -- 15 from their defensive linemen.

"He's a beast," Gilbert said of Dunlap, who had two of his three sacks in a 24-17 comeback victory Sunday in Tennessee. Dunlap injured his hamstring on the final sack, but is expected to play against the Steelers. "He's going to be one of those players you talk about for a long time. He's up-and-coming."

The Steelers already know that about Pouncey, who started all 16 regular-season games as a rookie and made the Pro Bowl in his first season.

And they are thinking the same about Gilbert, a No. 2 draft choice who has played very well since starter Willie Colon was placed on injured reserve after the opening game. Gilbert got off to a slow start at training camp when he reported overweight and injured his hamstring, but he has done nothing but impress the coaching staff since.

Gilbert said there is a reason three Gators will be in close proximity Sunday in passing situations.

"Competitive players come out of competitive programs," he said.

How competitive?

After the Steelers swept the Bengals last season, Pouncey said Dunlap spent the whole offseason claiming he gave him a cheap shot in one of the games.

"We argued about it the whole offseason," Pouncey said. "He said I hit him in the ribs when we played him and he even brought the film and said, 'Look, Pouncey, you cheap-shotted me. How do you do your boy like that?' I was like, man, Dunlap, leave it alone."

Gilbert and Pouncey are hoping they do not have to say the same thing to Dunlap about their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger

"He's a speed guy, but he's also strong as ever," Gilbert said. "He doesn't look like it, but he's real strong. If he stays healthy, he has a bright future."

Just like his ex-Gator teammates.

Woodley out again

Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley will miss his second game in a row with a hamstring injury, but he is expected to return after the open week when the Steelers play Nov. 27 at Kansas City

Woodley has not practiced since he was injured Oct. 30 against the New England Patriots and already has been declared out of the Bengals game by coach Mike Tomlin, along with wider receivers Emmanuel Sanders (knee) and Arnaz Battle (hamstring).

Inside linebacker James Farrior, who has missed the past two games with a calf injury, is expected to return and start against the Bengals.

"I feel real good and I'm ready to go," Farrior said. "It's up to the coach now."

Also, Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu (ribs) returned to practice Friday after missing the previous two days and will start against the Bengals. Polamalu and Farrior are listed as probable on the team's official injury report.

Quick turnarounds

Call it resolve, perhaps resiliency, but the Steelers have done a good job of bouncing back from defeats. Since the 2009 season, they have followed each of their past seven losses in the regular-season with a victory. Since '07, the Steelers are 16-5 after a regular-season loss. Four of those losses came in a five-game slide in '09.

"We take that in stride," Polamalu said. "Whether you win a big game [the week] before or lose a big game before, it's about isolating one week at a time and trying to maximize your performance for that one week.

"Our teams have great perspective. We're very humble in our approach, and I think that's kind of been -- that has been --the strength of our team, the perspective and humility that we have."


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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