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NFL SPOTLIGHT / WEEK 1

Steeler Attitude Appears to Be Lose at All Costs

September 04, 2000|HOUSTON MITCHELL

Some teams pay the price for winning. The Pittsburgh Steelers are paying too high a price for losing.

The Steelers, coming off consecutive losing seasons and 15 losses in their last 21 games, have a league-high four of the NFL's 25 highest-paid players in base salary.

Levon Kirkland, the league's highest-paid linebacker, has a base salary of $4,525,000 that ranks fourth overall. Running back Jerome Bettis, is 11th at $3.2 million. Bettis' base salary is the highest for a running back.

Center Dermontti Dawson is 16th at $3 million. Left tackle Wayne Gandy is 23rd at $2.9 million.

All those big salaries didn't help them Sunday. The Steelers suffered a 16-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh.

The Steelers had only 30 yards rushing, with Bettis gaining only eight yards in nine carries.

"That was embarrassing," Bettis said. "We couldn't move the ball at all. It was rough going out there."

The Steelers haven't won a home division game since Nov. 22, 1998, against Jacksonville. They have lost nine of their last 11 at Three Rivers. Sunday, about three-quarters of the 55,049 in attendance left before the end of the game, many leaving as the fourth quarter began.

EAGLES SUPPLY BRINE-TIME PERFORMANCE

The Philadelphia-Dallas game at Irving, Texas kicked off in 109-degree heat--171 on the artificial turf--which would've seemed to favor the Cowboys. Eagle Coach Andy Reid was ready for the high temperatures though. He supplied players with a combination of water and pickle juice, a drink suggested by an Iowa State trainer during camp.

"We loaded them up last night, before the game and during the game," trainer Rick Burkholder said. "We don't know why it works, but we only had one cramp."

YOU CAN REALLY FEEL THE ELECTRICITY IN THE AIR

The game between the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants was suspended for 23 minutes by lightning early in the third quarter at East Rutherford, N.J.

The Giants were getting ready to punt on the opening series of the second half when a bolt of lightning flashed near the west end of Giants Stadium.

The legs of Giants' rookie receiver Ron Dixon seemed to turn to jelly after the bolt, and referee Bill Carollo immediately waved his arms in the air and sent the teams off the field into the tunnels under the stadium.

The Giants might have run faster, conscious of a lightning strike that knocked five University of Albany police officers off their feet during training camp.

"I wasn't wasting any time," defensive end Michael Strahan said. "After the training camp incident, I wasn't going to be the poster child for lightning."

NFL spokesman Joe Browne said there were two other lightning delays in NFL history. A game at Giants Stadium between the Jets and Colts was delayed 32 minutes on Sept. 8, 1996, while a contest in Kansas City between the Seattle Seahawks and Chiefs was delayed 54 minutes on Oct. 4, 1998.

WHAT A RUSH

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper had 13 carries for 73 yards in Minnesota's 30-27 win over Chicago, and that included taking a knee on the last three snaps.

Culpepper finished with the third-most yards rushing for a quarterback in the team's 40-year history. Fran Tarkenton had 99 yards against the Rams in 1961 and Wade Wilson had 75 yards against Washington in 1987.

Culpepper, 6 feet 4, 255 pounds, had impressive scrambles of 25 and 21 yards on his first series, and he rushed for three touchdowns in the third quarter.

"You don't see many guys that big running with a football unless they've picked up a fumble," Viking running back Robert Smith said. "He's something completely different. He's creating a mold that hasn't been set yet."

CAN YOU SMELL WHAT THE LEAGUE IS COOKING?

From UmpCams to halftime player interviews, the NFL employed all sorts of gimmicks opening weekend.

Just don't call it the XFL factor.

"Is this a reaction to the XFL? I don't think so," CBS Sports executive producer Terry Ewert said of the UmpCams. "Before the XFL, the NFL was progressive in looking at what broadcasters requested over the years."

When World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon introduced his new league, which starts play in 2001, he promised mini cameras in players' helmets and microphones in huddles.

The NFL's product can stand on its own, the league says, however it is interesting the league approved the following for this season:

* The UmpCam, a tiny camera affixed to the brim of the umpire's cap. Fox used it for three games Sunday. Verdict: Someone needs to tell the umpire to keep his cap on straight, otherwise we get a crooked look at the field.

* CBS moved "NFL Today" to a studio in midtown Manhattan, hoping to energize the show with an outdoor audience.

* MTV will produce the halftime show when CBS airs the Super Bowl on Jan. 28.

* The league is allowing players to be interviewed on TV at halftime for the first time.

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