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Pats' Seymour practices, hopes to play vs. Steelers

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Let's get physical has long been the mantra of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have annually featured a stout defense and strong running game in earning a spot near the top of the AFC.

The Steelers' penchant for physical play extends to their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger, at 6-foot-5 and 241 pounds, is adept at shaking off would-be tacklers and scrambling to buy time, often finding a receiver downfield for a big play.

That means a lot of pressure on the New England front seven, who will be trying to chase down and then bring down Big Ben.

The good news for the Patriots (7-4) is that one of those doing the chasing Sunday should be star defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who returned to practice Friday after missing two workouts this week with a knee injury. He was listed as questionable on the Patriots' injury report.

"That's the game plan," said Seymour when asked if he would be playing Sunday. "This time of year, everyone's banged up."

Seymour said he is looking forward to the challenge the Steelers quarterback provides. "Roethlisberger does a good job of adlibbing, making plays with his legs," said Seymour. "He can take a broken play and turn it into a touchdown."

Fellow defensive lineman Ty Warren, who has a strained groin and is questionable for Sunday, said chasing Roethlisberger is tough for anyone, but especially so for linemen. "Have you taken a look at us? We're all 300-plus pounds. If you run around out there for 15 seconds, it sucks the wind right out of you," he said.

The Pats also are worried about the probable return of running back Willie Parker, who practiced Friday but is listed as questionable.

"Stopping the run comes first," Warren said. "We know that Roethlisberger is dangerous running around with the ball in his hands making plays. That's his game. If we stop the running game, that neutralizes a lot of what Roethlisberger does."

As usual when the Patriots and Steelers meet late in the season, there's a lot on the line. The Steelers are looking to stay atop the AFC North and the Patriots are scrambling for a playoff spot, second behind the Jets in the AFC East.

The Steelers still smart from playoff losses to the Patriots in past years, and last December New England flattened Pittsburgh 34-13 en route to a perfect 16-0 regular season.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he hasn't noticed a big change in the personality of the Steelers since second-year coach Mike Tomlin replaced Bill Cowher.

"They're basically the same. ... You look at what they do, how they do it, how they play, there's a lot of carry-over over the past 15 years," Belichick said.

While Patriots-Steelers means physical play, it also means a good bit of trash-talking. After all, the Steelers' Anthony Smith guaranteed a win over the Pats last December, a promise that fell flat. After the game, the Steelers derided the Patriots as "classless" for all the trash-talking they did during the game

Belichick said it's up to the players to filter it out.

"We all need to focus on what our jobs are and do that," he said, noting that it "can be a distraction."

Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, defensive back Ellis Hobbs and running back LaMont Jordan all practiced to some degree Friday, but all are questionable for Sunday. The only player definitely out is Adalius Thomas with a forearm injury.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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