Bengals new kicker facing former Steelers team

CINCINNATI (AP) Randy Bullock had just arrived home in Houston - unemployed after the Steelers released him - and was doing his laundry when one of Pittsburgh's biggest rivals called.

The kicker tossed his clothes in the dryer and packed them again, this time for a trip to Cincinnati.

And in his first game with a tiger-striped helmet, he'll be trying to take the Steelers down.

Pittsburgh waived Bullock on Monday because Chris Boswell had fully recovered from an abdominal strain. The Bengals claimed him off waivers and released the struggling Mike Nugent , who had repeatedly missed kicks wide right.

Bullock expected to get released by the Steelers. The call from Cincinnati was a surprise.

''As a kicker, you never know what's going to happen,'' he said on Wednesday, wearing a Bengals stocking cap and jacket after a morning walkthrough.

Coach Marvin Lewis had stuck with Nugent as he went through the worst slump of his 12-year career, missing five of his last nine extra-point attempts.

Lewis felt the team had a better chance of working with Nugent to fix his problems rather than bringing in a new kicker.

Lewis said that Nugent's wide-right kick on a 36-yard field-goal try during a 23-10 victory at Cleveland on Sunday was the tipping point.

''Mike has been pretty consistent in practice but for whatever the reason, in the game it just hasn't worked that way - missing the field goal before halftime last week, one that obviously he should make,'' Lewis said on Wednesday.

Nugent's struggles began at midseason. He missed a 51-yard field goal and an extra point during a 27-27 tie with Washington in London, and Bullock was one of the kickers whom the Bengals considered during their following bye week.

''It went really well,'' Bullock said of the tryout with Cincinnati. ''I felt like I stood out, and I was hoping at some point I would get an opportunity. It took a little longer than I expected, but morning came I'm here now and I'm really excited.''

Instead of signing Bullock, the Bengals decided to stick with Nugent. Now Bullock gets a chance to claim the job for the final few games and beyond.

He was Houston's fifth-round draft pick in 2012 and has played in 45 games with the Texans, Jets, Giants and Steelers. He has made 78 of 96 field-goal attempts and all but four of his 95 point-after tries.

''I think any game is an audition, so I'm thankful for the opportunity,'' Bullock said. ''I've had a couple fill-in positions. I'm here to perform at a high level, help this team win and hopefully stick.''

His first opportunity comes against his former team. The Bengals (5-7-1) need to beat the AFC North leaders (8-5) to maintain their slim chances of making the playoffs.

''It's always fun to have an opportunity to play against somebody who has released you, whether it's recent or some other time,'' Bullock said.

NOTES: Receiver A.J. Green returned to practice for the first time since severely straining his right hamstring on Nov. 20, but did little more than jog lightly during the 30-minute part of practice that was open to the media. He didn't participate in drills with the other receivers. ... DE Wallace Gilberry (calf), CB Adam ''Pacman'' Jones (knee) and WR James Wright (knee) were held out of practice. ... G Clint Boling (shoulder), DE Carlos Dunlap (neck), WR Brandon LaFell (knee) and TE C.J. Uzomah (calf) were limited.

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