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Palmer hopes to get best of roomie this time

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Carson Palmer is thinking about his old college roommate a lot these days.

Sometimes, he thinks about how they'd go head-to-head in practice at Southern California _ Palmer trying to complete passes with safety Troy Polamalu attempting to pick them off.

He was a phenomenal player in college,'' Palmer said.He's the best player I ever played against in college, and I got to play against him every day. So he made me better and I made him better.''

Then, they went their separate ways _ Palmer to the Cincinnati Bengals as the first overall pick last year, Polamalu to the Pittsburgh Steelers as the 16th pick.

Their paths finally crossed again emphatically, decisively, painfully last month. And that's been on Palmer's mind since.

Polamalu intercepted his fourth-quarter pass and ran it back 26 yards for a winning touchdown, even running over his former roommate to reach the end zone.

I talked to him after the game,'' Palmer said.Troy and I go way back, so he had fun with it and I had fun with it _ not as much fun as he had with it, obviously.

``He got me last time. I've got to get him this time.''

The 28-17 loss has bothered Palmer as much as any in his brief career, and has the low-key quarterback unusually excited for the rematch Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Partly because of his roommate's big play that day, Palmer has got an emotional investment in this one. The two haven't talked since the game in Pittsburgh.

I can't wait,'' Palmer said.It's a game we think we should have won and know we could have won the last time we played them. It's a game I've thought a lot about and it's kind of sat in my stomach for a while.''

Palmer took his mistake to heart. He's a little more careful now about keeping track of where safeties are going on a play. Polamalu wasn't where Palmer expected him to be on the interception.

It was more he was kind of cheating and he was out of position and read the play,'' Palmer said.I'm at a position in my career where I need to learn from everything. You hope you wouldn't go out and make the same mistake twice. I learned a lesson from that.''

Polamalu has been an integral part of the Steelers' surge to 8-1. He has four interceptions and is second on the team in tackles, excelling in his multifaceted role.

We have him blitzing, we have him covering,'' coach Bill Cowher said.He is a very instinctive guy. He has done a great job of being able to sort through where we are moving him around and being able to handle all that responsibility. He can handle a lot.''

Palmer isn't surprised. He watched Polamalu on film this week and was reminded of the player who impressed him so much in college.

He's gotten a lot better this year,'' Palmer said.He started off playing great, and he's getting better. I think he's going to be the best safety in the league. He has all the physical attributes to be the best defensive player, the best safety in the league.

``In a couple of years, he's going to be on top of the game at the safety position, and I hope to be there at the quarterback position.''

Polamalu knows the Bengals (4-5) are going to be careful to account for him on Sunday in a game they must win to preserve their playoff hopes.

We know how big this game is and we're excited about the challenge,'' Polamalu said.We have to bring our 'A' game and we have to prepare that way.''

He'd better be prepared to take Palmer's best shot. The Heisman Trophy winner believes he has a friendly score to settle.

``I know a lot about him, he knows a lot about me, and we're going to have a couple of years here to go at it,'' Palmer said.

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