PITTSBURGH Defensive back Anthony Smith is so certain the Pittsburgh Steelers will end the New England Patriots' unbeaten season, he is guaranteeing a win Sunday in Foxborough.
The Patriots (12-0) may have the perfect record, Smith said Wednesday, but it should be New England that is worried about the Steelers (9-3) rather than the other way around.
"People keep asking me if we're ready for the Patriots," Smith said. "They should be asking if they're ready for us."
Is Smith so confident that he is willing to copy one of former Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter's familiar motivational ploys by guaranteeing the Steelers will win?
"We're going to win," Smith said. "Yeah, I can guarantee a win. As long as we come out and do what we got to do. Both sides of the ball are rolling, and if our special teams come through for us, we've got a good chance to win."
Despite Smith's abundant optimism, no other Steelers are designating Sunday as guaranteed win day. Linebacker James Farrior, cautioning that Smith hasn't been in the NFL long and may not realize what he is saying, doesn't think the Patriots will pay any attention.
Smith, a third-round pick from Syracuse in 2006, became the starter at free safety only after Ryan Clark needed spleen surgery in late October.
"He better keep his mouth shut," Farrior said, though he was laughing and wasn't angry at his teammate. "Oh well, I guess we've got to go deal with that."
Defensive end Brett Keisel doubts Smith's words will have any impact, even if the Steelers might have been better off not giving an exceptional team like New England any bulletin-board material.
"I think a lot of us in here feel like this is one of those games where we really don't have that much to lose," Keisel said. "If we win the game, well, we weren't supposed to win, and if we lose the game, we were supposed to lose. They're this big, great team that no one can touch."
The Steelers stopped the Patriots' record 21-game winning streak in 2004, but they have dropped five of six to New England since 1997 with two losses in AFC championship games.
Still, Smith is convinced there are multiple reasons why the Steelers will be the team that makes certain New England doesn't become the first NFL team to sweep a 16-game schedule.
Pittsburgh's defense has allowed the fewest points and yards in the NFL and, Smith said, "We don't expect that to change."
Also, he said, the Steelers are more physical than any team New England has faced and are so balanced offensively, the Patriots can't stop both Willie Parker's running and Ben Roethlisberger's throwing.
If the Patriots thought the Ravens were physical Monday night when New England was forced to stage a desperation rally to win 27-24 in the final minute, Smith said, wait until they meet up with Pittsburgh.
"They say they played their toughest game last week against Baltimore, but I think we play harder than Baltimore," Smith said. "They're going to be in for it again this week. They're going to have a tough week in front of them."
Smith isn't worried his words might give the Patriots a motivational kick during a tough week in which the Patriots are playing two physical AFC North teams in a seven-day span. Or that his own teammates will dislike what he is saying.
"They will back me up," Smith said. "Everyone has the same attitude anyway, so it's not like it's a big thing."
If Smith didn't give the Patriots enough hey-look-at-this material, here's this nugget for the Patriots' receiving corps: Smith said they may have Randy Moss, but Cincinnati not New England has the league's best wide receivers.
"They've got Walker and Moss," Smith said, referring to Patriots receivers Wes Welker and Randy Moss. "But they're not like Cincinnati."
The Steelers shut down the Bengals' passing game during a 24-10 victory Sunday night, limiting star receiver Chad Johnson to six harmless catches. Carson Palmer completed only 38.6 percent of his passes (17-of-44) and was 11-of-37 (29.7 percent) after Cincinnati's opening drive.
Keisel could only laugh after hearing Smith's comments, saying, "Maybe I should start (guaranteeing games)."
Will he begin doing that next week, when the Steelers play the Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)?"Maybe the week after that," he said.
VIKINGS EDWARDS SUSPENDED: Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy on steroid use.
Edwards has been a starter for most of the season, but was replaced by Erasmus James for last Sunday's game against Detroit. Coach Brad Childress said that decision had nothing to do with Edwards' violation, which the coach learned of on Wednesday morning.
Childress said he was disappointed in Edwards and could not comment further because of the confidentiality surrounding the policy."It's disappointing, but there are policies in place and our players have to adhere to those policies," Childress said. "Every team goes through challenges as you go through the year. We've been through some of our own. It's an opportunity to have others step up."
MCNABB READY FOR RETURN: Donovan McNabb has his mobility back, and along with it, his starting spot. About the reception he'll receive Sunday from fickle Philadelphia Eagles fans, with whom he's had a career-long on-again, off-again relationship, the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback is unsure and even a bit indifferent,
McNabb returned to practice Wednesday for his first full workout since spraining his right ankle and jamming his thumb in a victory over Miami two weeks ago.
"I do feel like I'm ready to play," McNabb said before heading off to practice, which was moved indoors because of a light snowfall.