Ben Roethlisberger is hoping his meeting with former teammate James Harrison in Cincinnati is better than the previous time he had to play against him.
In 2001, Roethlisberger was a redshirt freshman at Miami of Ohio when the Redhawks lost their final game of the season at Kent State, 24-21. Roethlisberger was sacked five times that game, four by Harrison, who finished with 12 tackles and a forced fumble. Five of the tackles were for losses.
The game originally was scheduled for the second week of September, but the tragic events of 9/11 forced the game to be rescheduled the week after their season finale.
"We played in Hawaii the week before and because that was supposed to be our final game of the season, many of our seniors planned to stay in Hawaii and didn't come back," Roethlisberger said. "So we had to use a bunch of guys who couldn't play and I got killed."
Roethlisberger is hoping the same doesn't happen when he plays against Harrison Monday night for the first time since that game.
After spending 10 years with the Steelers, Harrison has a different role with the Bengals -- playing mostly on the left side as a stacked outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense -- and rarely rushes the passer.
"I haven't seen their defense; I don't even know where James is playing," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who lists Harrison as one of his 10 best all-time defensive players. "But I know this, wherever he is, he will help them. He has a defensive demeanor, and that helps any team."
At 35, Harrison is no longer the player who was the NFL's defensive player of the year in 2008 and a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He has had problems staying healthy and difficulty covering running backs and tight ends in coverage. In 2012, he had only six sacks in 13 games with the Steelers.
But his contribution to the Bengals might be bringing an attitude and physical presence to a defense that is young, talented and in need of a swagger.
The Steelers know all about that, and will get to see firsthand what it is like to play against Harrison Monday night.
"He's probably something like a football Moses to them, having been to the promised land a few times and understanding what type of work it takes to go from undrafted free agent to defensive MVP," safety Ryan Clark said.
Harrison is fourth on the Steelers' all-time sack list (64) and is remembered for any number of significant moments in his time with the Steelers, everything from body-slamming a drunken fan to the field in a game in Cleveland to the any number of fines he was handed for illegal hits on opposing players.
But there were moments of incredible athleticism, tool, beginning in 2005 when he intercepted a Drew Brees pass against the San Diego Chargers and hurdled running back La'Dainian Tomlinson on his 25-yard return.
In 2007, in a Monday night game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field, Harrison put on one of the greatest defensive performances in Steelers history, registering 3 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles, an interception and fumble recovery in a 38-7 victory.
LeBeau called Harrison's 100-yard return of an intercepted Kurt Warner pass in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Fla., "the greatest play I've ever seen."
"James never talked much with us, he just knocked folks out," Clark said. "He was always an intimidating factor for our defense. Guys knew you couldn't run to him or run away from him because he was always showing an extreme amount of physicality. I'm sure that's what he does for the Bengals. "
Then Clark added, "He gets into his moods. He'll talk to you and laugh with you, but he's about business. That's what I always liked about him on the field. People don't really want to talk to James. Is that a guy you really want to get upset? You let him be calm, you let him stay at a point where he's not trying to take your head off every play."
Velasco ready to start
It hasn't taken him very long, but center Fernando Velasco has picked up the Steelers offense so quickly that he will be the starter for Maurkice Pouncey against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Velasco was signed Monday after Pouncey tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee in the opener and was placed on injured reserve.
"I've never seen anyone come in and look as comfortable in the offense so quick," running back Isaac Redman said. "He's making all the correct calls. He looks like he's been here since training camp. I'm not just saying that. It's really amazing how fast he picked it up and how smart this guy is."
Velasco started 16 games in 2012 -- 13 at center -- for the Tennessee Titans, but was released two weeks ago because the Titans signed center Rob Turner in free agency. Velasco also was due $2.02 million this season if he had made Tennessee's 53-man roster.
Velasco said his transition was made easier because the Steelers ran many of the same offensive schemes as the Titans. And because he plays between guards -- Ramon Foster and David DeCastro -- who know the offense very well.
"I can never take credit for that," Velasco said. "Ramon has been here a long time; he knows the offense. You have a Stanford guy, David, he's a smart kid, and it shows up on field. He can make calls off the top of his head. It's not me, it's the guys that surround me."
• Kicker Shaun Suisham (hamstring) took part in a full practice Friday for the first time this week and said he is feeling better. The Steelers do not have to list his official status for Monday night until today. Also,c ornerback Cortez Allen (ankle) did not practice again. Nose tackle Steve McLendon (hamstring) returned to full practice after being limited Thursday.
• Former Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson, the Steelers quarterback coach for three seasons, will be part of the pre-game coin flip.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.