CINCINNATI (AP) - Terrell Owens thinks the Bengals' game on Monday night against the Steelers should get good ratings.
The reason? He's on it.
"Of course," Owens said. "If I was an average fan, I would want to watch me."
So far this season, the 36-year-old receiver has been something to watch. One of the NFL's most disruptive receivers - on and off the field - has shown there's some life left in those aging hands. He leads the Bengals (2-5) in catches, yards and touchdowns, the one bright spot in their passing game.
A few months after it appeared Owens might be finished, he ranks sixth in the league in catches (45) and yards (629), along with his team-high five touchdowns. No one else on the team has scored more than two touchdowns.
He thinks he has proved his point to teams that reckoned him too old or too much trouble.
"I've always felt I was able to play at this level, given the opportunities and the circumstances," Owens said. "I think I've probably surprised a lot of people.
"I was getting criticized a lot and people were taking shots at me because they said I was over the hill and in the 30s, I couldn't play anymore. All along I've known that I could play. It's all about putting me in certain situations to be able to succeed, and I do that."
The Steelers (5-2) were impressed while watching tape of Owens' comeback season.
"I think TO, he kind of looks revitalized," safety Ryan Clark said. "He's always said, though, that if he got a top-notch quarterback, he could make plays. He has that in Carson (Palmer), and he's doing some good things."
He hasn't been able to do the most important thing: Win. The defending AFC North champs signed Owens to a one-year deal to spark a passing game that was among the league's worst last season. From that standpoint, it's been a success. Cincinnati ranks sixth in passing.
The record? Far, far worse. Cincinnati went 6-0 in the division last season and finished with a 10-6 mark. This year, their season is all but over at the midway point.
"We're better at throwing the ball than we were last year," offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said. "I don't think there's any doubt whatsoever about that. I don't think that the wins-and-losses have any factor to do with T.O. versus not T.O. or any of that type of stuff. We're a better team with him.
"Our big plays are up, our passing yardage is up. So yeah, we're better there. But we just haven't put complete games together to win them."
It's the opposite of what the Bengals expected.
When Owens signed at the start of training camp, he and Chad Ochocinco dubbed themselves Batman and Robin, a pass-catching dynamic duo that was going to lead the Bengals to another title. While Owens has produced, Ochocinco has been little more than a sidekick.
Ochocinco had one of the best games of his career in the season opener, catching 12 passes for 159 yards in a 38-24 loss to New England. Most of it came after the Bengals fell behind 31-3 and the Patriots went a little soft on defense.
In the other games, Ochocinco has been limited to four or fewer catches five times. He had three catches for 34 yards in a 22-14 loss to Miami a week ago. Owens had two touchdown catches.
Ochocinco didn't talk to the media leading up to the Pittsburgh game. He acknowledged on his cable television show with Owens that he's lost the confidence that once fueled his big games and big talk.
"The funny thing about it: I was in a comfort zone to where I was able to go out on a limb because I knew, there was not a doubt in my mind, that I would go out there and be able to perform and have the opportunities to make those plays," Ochocinco said.
The overriding question with Owens was whether he would create problems with his outspokenness. So far, he's done fine. The only quarterback he's taken a jab at is former Eagles teammate Donovan McNabb.
"I just want to do what I'm supposed to do and try to contribute as best as I can," Owens said. "So I'm not here to create any distractions or what have you."
Given the Bengals' quick fade, the Monday night game could be one of the few moments in the national spotlight for the self-described superheroes.
Owens would have liked more than a one-year deal from the Bengals, but got no guarantees beyond this season. The 32-year-old Ochocinco is in the final guaranteed year on his deal, although the Bengals have an option for 2011. Coach Marvin Lewis also is in the final year of his contract, having turned down an extension last season. Lewis lobbied ownership to bring Owens to Cincinnati in the offseason.
There may not be many more high-profile games for this duo. Better make the most of it.
"I always look forward to Monday nights," Owens said. "Ever since I came out of college (at Tennessee-Chattanooga), I remember my receivers coach Frank DeBusk telling scouts that when the lights come in, particularly that's when I tend to play my best."