PITTSBURGH (AP) -Don't let their own talking fool you. The Pittsburgh Steelers miss Joey Porter, and a lot.
They miss his motor mouth, which constantly runs at 100 miles per hour and has distracted, if not deterred, countless NFL players. His talking once led to Porter being thrown out of a game before it started and to dominating the attention at a Super Bowl for two days.
``He tries to intimidate other people,'' Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke said. ``He tries to make them scared.''
The Steelers miss Porter's patrolling of the locker room, and his demands that every teammate be prepared and motivated. They miss his bluster, the attitude he created that no team was better than the Steelers.
``We fed off Joey,'' safety Tyrone Carter said. ``He's the vocal guy of the defense and the vocal guy of the team. If you weren't ready, he made you ready. He was always talking.''
Yes, the Steelers miss almost everything about Joey Porter, the person, the leader. Joey Porter the football player? Well, maybe they don't miss him so much.
When the Steelers cut the three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker last March in a salary cap move, they knew there would be a day when he lined up against them - the only member of their 75th season all-time team currently playing in another uniform.
That day comes Monday, when Porter's Miami Dolphins (0-10) go against the Steelers (7-3) in a game certain to create the highest on-field decibel level at Heinz Field all season. Joey Porter is back, and Joey Porter will be talking.
What neither party imagined when the Dolphins signed Porter to a contract guaranteeing him $20 million was, in late November, Porter still wouldn't have won a game since last Dec. 31 with Pittsburgh.
With James Harrison, a one-time undrafted free agent, playing better at Porter's old position than Porter himself played last season, the Steelers haven't missed their former star's on-field production. Porter has 1 1/2 sacks and not much else; Harrison has 7 1/2 sacks, six forced fumbles and an interception.
Where the Steelers really missed having Porter - and maybe a shot of Bill Cowher, too - was during their surprise road defeats to the Cardinals, Broncos and Jets. On those days, he would have been in every player's ear trying to refocus and motivate his teammates.
That side of Joey Porter, the Steelers haven't replaced.
``He really plays with your psyche and, mentally, you really have to keep it going,'' linebacker Larry Foote said. ``But him being 0-10 now, he doesn't have as much of a bark as he would want. But he'll definitely give it everything he's got.''
Porter had no idea it would be so bad in South Florida - six more losses, and the Dolphins will be the first 0-16 team in NFL history.
They've got a quarterback starting his second game, John Beck, and a newly reinstated running back, Ricky Williams, who has become better known for his marijuana smoking than his playmaking following multiple NFL suspensions.
Just when Dolphins coach Cam Cameron was trying to win a game - any game, please - he is dealing with the distractions caused by Williams' latest return.
It's all been a big letdown for Porter who, less than two years ago, was a major reason the Steelers won their first Super Bowl in 26 years.
``Obviously, I'm not going to be walking into the game under the same circumstances I thought I would be,'' Porter said. ``I thought I would be walking in and we'd be about 7-2 and they'd be 7-2 and it would be a blockbuster. I can't be the same guy I thought I was going to be out there on that day.''
The Steelers figure to be far more focused than they were a week ago, when they were lulled into lethargy by the Jets' 1-8 record and lost 19-16 in overtime. Pittsburgh may need to win to retain sole leadership of the AFC North. Cleveland (6-4), one game off the lead, plays at home Sunday against Houston (5-5).
If nothing else, Porter's return to Heinz Field adds some drama to a game that has few story lines other than the Dolphins' pursuit of reverse perfection.
That's why the Steelers will believe the silence when they hear it - or, in this case, when they don't hear it from Porter.
``C'mon, Joey, you know you can't talk trash to your own boys,'' Hines Ward said.
To the Steelers, Porter trying to outtalk them would be so much jabberwocky, nonsensical ramblings that cause no impact and only sound foolish.
``He left us, and I definitely don't feel bad for him,'' Willie Parker said. ``He's not a Steeler no more. He's still my friend, still my boy, I love him but I don't feel bad for him. I'll hang out with him in the offseason. During the season, we're enemies.''
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