Colts choose their words carefully in response to Steelers

Updated: January 12, 2006, 4:32 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Joey Porter can talk all he wants, but the Indianapolis Colts aren't about to get into a shouting match with the Pittsburgh linebacker.

On Wednesday, Porter criticized the Colts for playing "soft" in their first meeting this season and challenged them to play smash-mouth football in Sunday's divisional playoff game. On Thursday, Colts players responded quietly, letting the usually stoic Tony Dungy handle it.

"I'm going to have to go back and watch the tape again after what Joey Porter said because I guess I didn't see it the same way he did," Dungy said Thursday as he held a yellow videotape in his hand. "But I don't think you can beat Pittsburgh without being a tough team."

Porter enjoys jousting with opponents.

In 2004, he was actually ejected before a game against Cleveland when he and Browns running back William Green started throwing punches in warmups. When the Steelers visited Indy in November, Porter apparently taunted Colts players in warmups, too -- something the Colts later cited as motivation in their 26-7 rout.

This time, Porter started sparring even earlier. He criticized the Colts for relying on trickery to win games rather than slugging it out and called Edgerrin James' 124-yard performance in November a "cheap 100." It was the first time the Steelers allowed a runner to top 100 yards in 23 games.

"They don't want to just sit there, line up and play football," Porter told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They want to try to catch you off guard. They don't want to play smash-mouth football, they want to trick you. ... They want to catch you substituting. Know what I mean? They don't want to just call a play, get up there and run a play. They want to make you think. They want it to be a thinking game instead of a football game."

If Porter was hoping to trade barbs over the next few days, the Colts (14-2) weren't interested.

Most players said Porter was entitled to his opinion. Judging by their body language and facial expressions, though, it was clear they disagreed with Porter's view.

"Coach Dungy's thing is always to focus on the reality rather than the perception," left tackle Tarik Glenn said, smiling. "When we're on the field, we're who we are and we're going to go out and play our game."

The quiet approach helped the Colts set a franchise record for wins, finish with most points scored (439) and fewest allowed (247) in the AFC and gave them home-field advantage through the playoffs.

And they're not about to change now.

"We're not going to run uphill or throw when teams double cover us," Dungy said. "We try to take the path of least resistance."

Porter may not find many supporters in the RCA Dome, either.

Colts officials have asked ticket holders to avoid selling tickets to Steelers fans, regardless of the price, hoping that the blue-and-white clad crowd will make enough noise to cause problems for Pittsburgh again.

Indy fans were already upset because of accusations that artificial noise was being piped into the RCA Dome in November. NFL spokesman Steve Alic said then that the NFL never investigated.

But even the lopsided score, botched assignments and litany of Steelers penalties couldn't convince Porter the Colts were tough enough.

"If they would have outhit us, they would have just lined up, and they wouldn't have done all the audibles every play," he said. "If you want to outhit us, line up and play football. ... Line up, you get your people, we got our eight men in the box, run the ball."

All-Pro safety Bob Sanders said Porter's comments were of little concern. Glenn said all teams use different philosophies, and defensive tackle Larry Tripplett said he'd rather play than talk.

"Porter does a lot of talking, that's his game," All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney said. "He loves it."

So the Colts are content to let Porter keep yapping as long as they get the job done Sunday.

"I have had my guys say what's on their mind before, and I encourage them to do that," Dungy said. "That's what Joey Porter does -- a lot -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But I don't think it necessarily has much bearing on the game. I think there was some talking going on about 15 minutes before the last game and it didn't have much bearing on that game."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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