NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 31: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is seen on the field during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Louisiana Superdome on October 31 2010 in New Orleans Louisiana. The Saints won 20-10 over the Steelers. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

Steelers Vs. Saints: James Harrison Receives $20,000 Fine

The Steelers lost against the defending Super Bowl champs in New Orleans Sunday night.

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Steelers Vs. Saints: James Harrison Fined $20,000 For Hit On Drew Brees

The NFL has fined James Harrison $20,000 for his late hit on Drew Brees Sunday night. The fine comes on the heels of another recent fine for his hit against Mohamed Massqauoi of the Browns.

Harrison’s agent doesn’t sound happy:

“It was not an egregious affair here. I think they’re really missing the mark,” Parise said. “I respect the fact they’re trying to minimize injuries, but they’re going about it the wrong way.”

I agree. A penalty for that hit, which wasn’t especially vicious, would have been sufficient. I can’t help but feel that if this were done by anyone but Harrison, there would be no problem.

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Steelers Vs. Saints: James Harrison Has 'Semi-Productive' Meeting With NFL

James Harrison reports that he had a “semi-productive” meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Harrison seems to have backed quite a distance away from the idea that he might retire if he’s no longer able to play the game as he’s been taught to play it, but it also sounds like he and Goodell aren’t really seeing eye to eye:

“You have to adapt to some things,” Harrison said of the new crackdown on such hits this season. "It’s not really that much of a change. The only thing I have a real issue with is trying to adjust to an adjustment that an off [offensive] player has already made. That’s where I have an issue with there being a consequence and repercussions that you no longer can control. If a guy ducks his head at the last minute right as you’re about to hit him, you can’t control that, you can’t adjust to that.

“Their response was I’m a defensive player and I’m responsible for what happens — who initiates the contact, that’s my responsibility. I don’t know — hopefully, we’ll get a better understanding.”

It doesn’t sound like it, and it sounds like the rest of the season could be very awkward for Harrison as he tries to avoid hits that will get him in trouble. But at least he isn’t talking about quitting anymore.

Troy Polamalu, meanwhile, spoke with more intensity about the NFL's policies. You can check out his reaction here.

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Steelers Vs. Saints: James Harrison Could Receive Another Fine For Hit On Drew Brees

The Trib reports that, two weeks after getting in trouble for a tough hit against the Browns, the SteelersJames Harrison could be back in trouble yet again, and could draw a fine for a hit against Drew Brees that resulted in a roughing-the-passer penalty Sunday night.

Harrison’s agent says he’s not as upset about this incident, which is good – if I were him and I were getting in trouble again, it would drive me up a wall. But Harrison, who says he contemplated retiring after being fined two weeks ago, sounds resigned to it this time:

“I’m not getting the same deep sense of frustration (from Harrison) that he had after the last (fine),” Bill Parise said Tuesday.

Here’s video of the hit. It’s pretty plainly a late hit, but not a particularly vicious one. Harrison will probably have to watch himself the rest of the season – I’m sure the NFL wouldn’t mind fining him again.

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Steelers Vs. Saints: Don't Blame Heath Miller For Pittsburgh Loss

There's plenty of blame to go around the morning after a sloppy, 20-10 Steelers loss to the Saints, but none of it should be on tight end Heath Miller, whose fourth quarter fumble (video) ended a likely scoring drive for Pittsburgh and led to the New Orleans touchdown that sealed the contest.

This play would've made the highlight reel even if Miller hadn't lost the ball. He accumulated over half of the reception's 25 yards after the catch, evading would-be tacklers and showing terrific balance and strength. Saints safety Malcom Jenkins simply got his shoulder right on the ball, prying it free. It was a great (and somewhat lucky) play by the defender, not an unforgivable gaffe by Miller, whose mechanics were sound the whole way; he held the ball high and tight, just like he's coached. 

A Miller fumble is almost as rare as a Miller drop. He's bobbled the ball only four times on 261 career catches, losing two. You'll notice the rare display of emotion from Miller, too, as he smacks himself in the head following the play. So cut him some slack. Besides, there are more deserving targets for your rage.

Take quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, for instance. Even though the Saints were without their top two cornerbacks, Roethlisberger struggled against the opposing secondary. Although his final stat line was decent (60.7% completion, 7.0 ypa), he continuously underthrew wide open receivers and failed to find his hot routes when New Orleans brought their house blitzes - not to mention the interception he gift-wrapped to Leigh Torrence (video) on the team's last drive. I'm beginning to worry about Roethlisberger's arm strength, as the underthrowing of open receivers - particularly along the sidelines, where they're running hitches and outs - has become all too frequent. As for beating the blitz, part of that blame falls on the shoulders of...

...offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. Who knows if Roethlisberger was restricted in calling audibles or not, but it sure seemed like Arians was opting for longer-developing plays downfield in obvious, obvious blitzing situations, rather than hitting an open man on a quick route and letting him convert with yards after the catch. Instead, Roethlisberger was hounded all night long, as the Saints defense notched three sacks against Pittsburgh. 

But perhaps the greatest head-scratcher from Arians was his play-calling in the red zone. In the second quarter, Roethlisberger hit Antwaan Randle El for what appeared to be an 11-yard touchdown (video). However, the play was overturned following a challenge from Saints coach Sean Payton.

The touchdown appeared dubious in slow motion, sure, but I was shocked that Payton threw the red flag and risked losing a timeout in a tightly contested first half. After all, even if the ruling was overturned in his favor, the Steelers would get the ball on the one-inch line, with three - perhaps four! - attempts to slip into the end zone. What, exactly, was the upside for the Saints?

Well, we found out. You would think that Arians would simply call a quarterback sneak with an inch to go for the touchdown. Roethlisberger is built like a linebacker, and that's a very high-percentage play, even when the defense expects it. Instead, Arians got cute and gave the ball to Issac Redman, who was lined up as the fullback, for a one-yard loss. A Rashard Mendenhall run on 2nd down got the Steelers back to the 1-yard line, but after another run went nowhere, Pittsburgh was forced to send out their field goal unit.

Assuming Arians doesn't go with a (likely successful) sneak on first down and the Steelers are facing 2nd-2 and 3rd-1, I don't know how he doesn't put the ball in Roethlisberger's hands at least once. Passing in a short-yardage situation like that is like semi-bluffing in poker: you can win in a number of ways. Maybe Roethlisberger finds an open man, maybe he tucks it and runs. You're paying the guy nearly $8 million to put the team on his back in precisely those situations. 

So go ahead and blame Roethlisberger and Arians, but please - go easy on Miller.

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Steelers Vs. Saints: Pittsburgh Struggles With Drew Brees In 20-10 Loss

The Steelers lost to the New Orleans Saints Sunday night, 20-10. The Saints leaned very heavily on quarterback Drew Brees, who completed 34 of 44 passes for 305 yards, enough that the Saints could get by with practically no rushing attack. The Saints’ defense was strong throughout the night – Ben Roethlisberger had 195 yards, but he had an interception and no touchdowns, and the Steelers didn’t adjust enough to frequent New Orleans blitzes. Roethlisberger's throws also weren't strong enough in at least a few cases.

The Saints scored two touchdowns late in the game on passes from Brees to Marques Colston and Lance Moore, which was enough to put the game away after they carried a 6-3 lead into the fourth quarter. Heath Miller's fumble midway through the quarter helped the Saints finish the Steelers off.

Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will probably take some heat for this one - the Steelers had a chance to score a touchdown in the first half with a first down an inch from the goal line, and instead of going with a quarterback sneak, they handed the ball off three times. They might have given Roethlisberger a chance to put the ball in the end zone.

For more on the game, head over to Behind The Steel Curtain.

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Steelers Vs. Saints: Antwaan Randle El Narrowly Misses Touchdown, Steelers Settle For Field Goal

The Steelers nearly scored the first touchdown of the game early in the second quarter, as Ben Roethlisberger completed a pass to Antwaan Randle El, who was tackled very close to the goal line. The play was initially ruled a TD, but the Saints’ challenge was (correctly, in my view) upheld, and the ball was spotted about an inch from the goal line. The Steelers then took three chances with running plays but failed to score, and settled instead for a Jeff Reed chip shot. 3-0 Steelers, but it would have been great if they had picked up the touchdown. The Saints now have the ball with about nine minutes left in the half.

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Saints Vs. Steelers: Pittsburgh Waives Thaddeus Gibson To Add Defensive Line Depth

In the wake of Aaron Smith's triceps injury, the Steelers have waived linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, the team's fourth-round selection in the 2010 NFL draft. Defensive lineman Steve McClendon will take Gibson's roster spot, as Pittsburgh had only five big men left after Smith went down. Moreover, the team's other starting defensive end, Brett Keisel (hamstring), is doubtful for Sunday's contest against the New Orleans Saints.

Gibson is a victim of circumstance here, not of his own inability. The Steelers have plenty of depth at linebacker, so it makes sense that head coach Mike Tomlin made this difficult decision:

 "Linebacker is our deepest position, and (Gibson) is the low man on the totem pole...It's just one of the casualties of this profession. It's very much a reality, and that's why we don't take what we're doing here for granted and we acknowledge that it's precious."

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Steelers Vs. Saints: NFL Week 8 Friday Injury Report

We're just about 48 hours away from kickoff between the last two Super Bowl champions - the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1) and the New Orleans Saints (4-3). After a humiliating home loss last weekend against the Cleveland Browns, the Saints will surely come out with their best effort on Halloween Night. Here's the final official week-end injury report for both teams.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Status Report

OUT

DE Aaron Smith (triceps)

DOUBTFUL

DE Brett Keisel (hamstring)

PROBABLE

T Flozell Adams (ankle), LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring)

Practice Report

DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE

Wednesday

T Flozell Adams (ankle), DE Brett Keisel (hamstring),

DE Aaron Smith (triceps), LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring)

Thursday

DE Brett Keisel (hamstring), C Maurkice Pouncey (illness),

DE Aaron Smith (triceps)

Friday

DE Brett Keisel (hamstring), DE Aaron Smith (triceps)

FULL PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE

Thursday

T Flozell Adams (ankle), LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring)

Friday

T Flozell Adams (ankle), LB LaMarr Woodley (hamstring)

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Status Report

OUT

RB Reggie Bush (fibula), RB Pierre Thomas (ankle)

DOUBTFUL

CB Jabari Greer (shoulder)

QUESTIONABLE

CB Tracy Porter (knee), LB Scott Shanle (hamstring)

PROBABLE

G Jahri Evans (ankle), C Jonathan Goodwin (groin),

RB Julius Jones (shoulder), S Darren Sharper (knee),

DE Will Smith (groin), T Zach Strief (knee),

CB Leigh Torrence (shoulder), LB Anthony Waters (hamstring)

Practice Report

DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE

Wednesday

RB Reggie Bush (fibula), C Jonathan Goodwin (groin),

CB Jabari Greer (shoulder), CB Tracy Porter (knee), RB Pierre Thomas (ankle)

Thursday

RB Reggie Bush (fibula), RB Pierre Thomas (ankle)

Friday

RB Reggie Bush (fibula), RB Pierre Thomas (ankle)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE

Wednesday

LB Scott Shanle (hamstring)

Thursday

C Jonathan Goodwin (groin), CB Jabari Greer (shoulder), CB Tracy Porter (knee), LB Scott Shanle (hamstring)

Friday

C Jonathan Goodwin (groin), CB Jabari Greer (shoulder), CB Tracy Porter (knee), LB Scott Shanle (hamstring)

FULL PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE

Wednesday

G Jahri Evans (ankle), RB Julius Jones (shoulder), S Darren Sharper (knee), DE Will Smith (groin), T Zach Strief (knee), CB Leigh Torrence (shoulder), LB Anthony Waters (hamstring)

Thursday

G Jahri Evans (ankle), RB Julius Jones (shoulder), S Darren Sharper (knee), DE Will Smith (groin), T Zach Strief (knee), CB Leigh Torrence (shoulder), LB Anthony Waters (hamstring)

Friday

G Jahri Evans (ankle), RB Julius Jones (shoulder), S Darren Sharper (knee), DE Will Smith (groin), T Zach Strief (knee), CB Leigh Torrence (shoulder), LB Anthony Waters (hamstring)

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Steelers Vs. Saints: Thursday Injury Report Notes

A few injury updates from Thursday for both the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1) and their Week 8 opponent, the New Orleans Saints (4-3).

For Pittbusrgh, right tackle Flozell Adams participated in Thursday’s practice after being held out of Wednesday’s session. Same goes for linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who also sat out on Wednesday. Both Adams (ankle) and Woodley (hamstring) sustained their injuries during last week’s win over the Miami Dolphins. From the sound of it, both should be ready to go come Sunday night.

Defensive end Brett Keisel, meanwhile, did not practice for the second straight day. Keisel missed last week with a hamstring injury. Finally, Maurkice Pouncey took the day off while dealing with an undisclosed illness. No word yet on the severity of the bug, but it’s probably safe to assume he’ll be ready to play, even if not at 100%.

The Saints’ injury situation is a mixed bag of good and bad news:

Starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer, who missed last week’s game with a left shoulder injury, and Tracy Porter, who has been sidelined for the last 3 1/2 weeks with a knee injury, returned to practice on a limited basis and coach Sean Payton said he was encouraged by their rehab.

The news wasn’t good, however, for running backs Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas as they were the only two players on the active roster who did not participate in practice.

Bush had hoped to get back on the practice field Wednesday after missing five games with a fractured fibula, but his return has been delayed. Thomas, who’s missed the last four games with a sprained ankle, was put in a walking boot after seeing a third doctor, a foot and ankle specialist, this week.

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Steelers Vs. Saints: Reggie Bush Out? Conflicting Reports Swirl Around A Mostly Irrelevant Player

Initially, it looked like Saints running back Reggie Bush would try to play Sunday night against the Steelers, but now conflicting reports have begun to surface. While New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said Wednesday that Bush was "day-to-day," it seems as though a "league source" is saying that he will sit his sixth consecutive game after suffering a leg fracture in Week 2.

Typically "league source" is an anonymous euphemism for "someone inside the Saints organization," so you know Payton and company have to be irked if there's an information leak somewhere in their house. Or - conspiracy theory alert! - the Saints are "leaking" erroneous information on purpose to obscure the Pittsburgh's preparation for their forthcoming Halloween tilt in the Big Easy.

I suppose that all things being equal, you'd rather your opponent have to plan for Bush than not. But it doesn't really matter either way. This probably wouldn't be as much of a story as it is if Bush wasn't such a household name. It's strange that more people don't see him for the bust of an NFL running back that he truly is. (Looking back, it's funny to think that the Texans selecting Mario Williams ahead of Bush was actually considered a gaffe.)

For his career, Bush is averaging a pedestrian 4.0 ypc. He's also missed 16 regular season games in about four and a half seasons, so he's been a very brittle back, as well. Sure, every once in a while, he'll give you a highlight like this, and I suppose you have to account for him moving the chains through the air on third downs...but the point remains: this is a player who gets way more attention than he should.

So unless you are a) Reggie Bush or b) a desperate fantasy owner whose injury-riddled roster has been decimated to the point where Bush is actually an option, you probably shouldn't really care about this story. Go read about Aaron Smith and Ziggy Hood instead.

With Pierre Thomas also nursing an injury, look for the youngster Chris Ivory to handle the load for the Saints. And by "the load," I mean, like - I dunno - 12 carries. The Saints are one of the worst rushing teams in the league (92.6 ypg, 3.9 ypc), and the Steelers are the best at stopping it (63.7 ypg, 2.8 ypc). Payton's gameplan has probably always been to have Drew Brees chuck it 50+ times. Bush injury saga aside, it never mattered who lined up at tailback for the Saints in the first place.

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Steelers Vs. Saints: Injury Update: Aaron Smith Targeting December Return

Excellent news for the Steelers: injured defensive end Aaron Smith is now looking to return in four to six weeks despite earlier reports that he would miss the rest of the season. In addition, Maurkice Pouncey sat out today with an illness. LaMarr Woodley and Flozell Adams practiced and are looking good to go. Brett Keisel did not practice today, but thinks he can play on Sunday. As James Walker points out, that would be great for the Steelers, who can use Keisel with Smith gone.

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Steelers vs. Saints: Emmanuel Sanders Player Of The Week

Steelers Depot is reporting that Steelers rookie Emmanuel Sanders has been named the AFC’s special teams player of the week after a big game against the Miami Dolphins.

Sanders racked up an average return of just over 28 yards in the Steelers’ 23-22 win following his fumble of the game’s opening kickoff. ’

The young receiver has also begun to carve our a little bit of a niche in the offense. After not catching any passes in the Steelers’ first five games, Sanders has three receptions for 55 yards in Pittsburgh's past two contests against the Dolphins and Cleveland Browns. He’s averaging 18.3 yards per reception.

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Steelers Vs. Saints: NFL Week 8 Notes, Stats And Trends

NOTES

STEELERS:

  • Club has won 3 of past 4 vs. Saints since '90...
  • Pit has 10-4 record (.714) vs. NFC under MIKE TOMLIN...
  • Steelers seek 5th straight win on road...
  • QB Ben Roethlisberger (19,861) needs 139 passing yards to become 2nd QB in franchise history w/ 20,000 (Terry Bradshaw, 27,989). Has 18-5 record (.783) vs. NFC w/ 32 TDs vs. 16 INTs & 94.2 passer rating. Had 3 TDs vs. 0 INTs & 127.7 passer rating in only meeting vs. NO on 11/12/06...
  • RB Rashard Mendenhall (5) needs 2 rush TDs to tie career high of 7 in '09...
  • WR Hines Ward aims for 3rd game in row w/ TD rec. Posted 2nd 100-yard rec. game of season last week (131) & 27th of career. 
  • WR Mike Wallace has 4 TD rec. in '10 & averages 42.3 yards per TD rec. (169 total)...Defense allows league-low 13.7 points per game this year...
  • Wallace, S Ryan Clark & CB Ike Taylor are natives of La...
  • LB Lawrence Timmons leads team w/ 60 tackles.

SAINTS:

  • QB Drew Brees has won 8 of 9 vs. AFC (incl. SB). In those 9, has completed 226 of 324 (69.8 pct.) for 2,600 yards with 17 TDs vs. 8 INTs for 100.8 rating. Last week, became fastest QB in history to reach 20,000 yards with new team (70 games). Since joining NO in '06, has 20,327 pass yards (most in NFL during span) & is 2nd Saints QB to reach 20,000 (Archie Manning, 21,734). Passed for 398 yards & 1 TD in last meeting...
  • RB Chris Ivory has 206 rush yards in past 2 (103 per game). 
  • RB Pierre Thomas has 4 rush TDs in past 5 vs. AFC...
  • WR Marques Colston aims for 4th in row vs. AFC with TD catch. In last meeting, had 10 catches for 169 yards (16.9 avg.).
  • In only game vs. Pit., TE Jeremy Shockey had 2-yard TD catch (12/18/04 w/ NYG)...
  • LB Scott Shanle had sack in last meeting. 
  • S Darren Sharper has 3 TFLs in past 2 vs. Pit.
  • LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar had 1st career sack in Week 7
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Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. New Orleans Saints: NFL Week 8 Capsules

The past two Super Bowl champions are set to meet this coming Sunday night in New Orleans when the Saints host the Pittsburgh Steelers in an intriguing inter-conference matchup.The Saints, like so many Super Bowl champions before them, look out of sorts in their title defense efforts. The Steelers meanwhile are off to an impressive 5-1 start to the year after missing the playoffs in '09. To get our coverage started this week in preparation for the Week 8 game on Sunday night, let's take a look at the series history, as well as the up-to-date season stats for both squads.

SERIES

STEELERS

SAINTS

SERIES LEADER

7-6

 

STREAKS

3 of past 4

 

COACHES VS. OPP.

Tomlin: 0-0

Payton: 0-1

LAST WEEK

W 23-22 at Dolphins

L 30-17 vs. Browns

LAST GAME

11/12/06: Saints 31 at Steelers 38. Pittsburgh RB Willie Parker runs for 213 yards & 2 TDs as Steelers overcome 24-17 halftime deficit.

LAST GAME AT SITE

10/6/02: Saints 32, Steelers 29. New Orleans RB Deuce McAllister rushes for 123 yards & 2 TDs, including 52-yard score, as Saints hold off late Steelers comeback attempt.

BROADCAST

NBC (7:20 PM CT): Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Andrea Kremer (Field reporter). Westwood One Radio: Dave Simms, James Lofton, Scott Kaplan (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 127 (WW1), 125 (Pit.), 126 (NO). XM: 104 (WW1), 102 (Pit.), 103 (NO).

STATS

PASSING

Roethlisberger: 35-54-559-5-1-122.4

Brees: 200-287-2,029 (1C)-14 (T1L)-10-91.4 (2C)

RUSHING

Mendenhall: 131-532-4.1-5

Ivory (R): 59-325-5.5-0

RECEIVING

Ward: 24-350-14.6-3

Colston: 40-452-11.3-1

OFFENSE

300.7

371.9

TAKE/GIVE

+8 (T2L)

-5

DEFENSE

299.3 (2C)

288.4 (3L)

SACKS

Harrison: 5

Ellis: 3

INTs

Polamalu: 2

4 tied: 1

PUNTING

Sepulveda: 46.8 (3C)

Morstead: 47.6 (1C)

KICKING

Reed: 47 (14/14 PAT; 11/15 FG)

Hartley: 31 (13/13 PAT; 6/10 FG)

 

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Steelers Vs. Saints: Reggie Bush To Try To Play Sunday

Saints running back Reggie Bush, who has missed the last five games with a broken right fibula, says that the Saints' doctors have approved him to run this week. If all goes well, he could play against the Steelers on Sunday. Based on the time frame here, though, it doesn't sound especially likely that he'll play. Playing an NFL game and being approved to run, even if it's at full speed, are two different things, as Bush suggests here:

However, he cautioned that he is not sure how he’ll feel when he tries to make sharp, lateral cuts typically required of him during games. Bush said doctors have told him he’ll know he’s ready to play when he can tolerate those types of football moves.

"I’m an explosive player, so it’s different doing things in the training room than getting out there on the football field and making those hard cuts and routes and all those things," Bush said. "I’ve got to play a whole football game, not just an hour in the training room."

I'm not sure the Steelers should be shaking in their shoes at the prospect of facing Bush anyway, but he's versatile - as the article notes, he can contribute by catching passes and running back punts. If nothing else, his absence would make the Saints a little more predictable in those areas.

For more on the Steelers' matchup against the Saints, check out Michael Bean's feature last week about the Steelers' schedule.

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