PITTSBURGH -- Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress
suggests there are two sets of pass coverage rules in the NFL these
days -- one for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots,
another for the rest of the league.
Despite the increased emphasis on not allowing defensive backs
to manhandle receivers downfield, Burress doesn't detect any
difference in how the physical Patriots are playing, especially Pro
Bowl cornerback Ty Law.
"They're arm-barring guys out of bounds, Ty Law's pushing guys
10-15 yards downfield, stopping in front of guys and bumping them
when they're 20 yards downfield," Burress said. "So I think it
applies to everybody but them."
Hines Ward, a three-time Pro Bowl receiver who likely will be
matched Sunday against Law, plans to drop a few hints with the
officiating crew to watch out for the Patriots' mayhem. Law's
aggressive coverage against Colts star receiver Marvin Harrison was
a key to New England beating Indianapolis in the AFC championship
game last season.
"I'll be sure to talk to the refs early in the game, just to
remind them of that game," Ward said.
Burress joked he might offer inducements to the officials.
"I'm going to send them cookies or something before the game
starts," Burress said. "Hopefully, we'll get some calls on those
Despite the Steelers receivers' woe-is-us talk, Ward is certain
that he, Burress and No. 3 receiver Antwaan Randle El will have
plenty of opportunities to make plays against an injury-depleted
Law is healthy, but cornerback Tyrone Poole sat out Sunday's
victory over the New York Jets with a knee injury, forcing
second-year cornerback Asante Samuel to start. The Patriots also
started undrafted free agent rookie Randall Gay at free safety.
Poole is questionable for Sunday.
Ward is coming off three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving
seasons and is sixth in the league with 43 receptions. Burress
isn't among the top 30 in receptions, but his average of 19.8 yards
per catch on 19 receptions is among the league's best.
"I don't know how they're going to going to play both Plax and
I," Ward said. "I know Ty followed me the last couple of times,
but Plax is a dominant force on the other side and I don't know how
they're going to try to defend him over there, too."
Law's answer? The same way the Patriots defended every other top
receiver they've faced while winning 21 in a row overall and a
league-record 18 straight during the regular season.
Law grew up in the football hotbed of Aliquippa, Pa., about a
half-hour's drive from Pittsburgh, and helped the Quips win a
Pennsylvania state championship as a senior. He always gets revved
up to play at home, and enjoys the challenge of taking on a
receiver such as Ward -- or will it be Burress?
"I'd be a fool to tell you that," said Law, who bought 40 game
tickets for family and friends. "I'm going to keep that under
wraps. I'm probably going to see a little bit of both of them. They
have a lot of good receivers over there, so you never know what is
going to happen on game day."
One difference since the teams last played two seasons ago -- a
30-14 New England season-opening win -- is that rookie Ben
Roethlisberger, not Kordell Stewart, is Pittsburgh's quarterback.
Watching game tapes this week, Law said it wasn't difficult to
see what Roethlisberger has brought to Pittsburgh's offense while
winning his first four NFL starts. Coach Bill Belichick agreed,
saying the Steelers run the same pass plays as they did with
Stewart, but "They don't come out the same."
"The guy (Roethlisberger) is a different breed," Law said.
"We have to go in there and give him some different looks to see
if he can pick up on what we are trying to do. We will try to
rattle him as much as we can, try to put pressure on him and we'll
see what happens."