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Old 10-29-2007, 04:31 AM   #1
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Default Offense and defense comfortable in seventh consecutive victory at Cincinnati

Offense and defense comfortable in seventh consecutive victory at Cincinnati
Monday, October 29, 2007
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It has been so long since the Steelers lost on the road to the Cincinnati Bengals that James Farrior couldn't remember if he was even around the last time it happened.

He wasn't, and Farrior joined the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent in 2002.

"We play well when we come here," Farrior said.

Offense and defense.

As efficient as the Steelers' offense always seems to operate against the Bengals -- and it happened again yesterday, particularly in the first half -- the Steelers' defense is equally proficient.

The Steelers stretched their winning streak at Paul Brown Stadium to seven games, including playoffs, with another easy victory against the Bengals, 24-13, and the reasons go beyond Ben Roethlisberger's big plays and another 100-yard game by Willie Parker.

The defense has certainly done its part, too, never allowing the Bengals more than 17 points in a game and only 91 overall (an average of 13 points per game) during that seven-game streak.

"You have to play very disciplined and be very careful that if you take a risk, you can get gouged," linebacker Clark Haggans said.

To be sure, the Steelers did not put on a defensive clinic against the Bengals, not by any stretch. Cincinnati had only six possessions, and five of them ended in Steelers territory, including its final gasp with 3:16 remaining.

Quarterback Carson Palmer was not sacked, was not intercepted and completed 12 passes to the league's top receiving tandem, Chad Johnson (5 for 51) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (7 for 81), who also caught a 9-yard touchdown.

What's more, running back Kenny Watson finished with 88 yards rushing on 19 carries, the most by an opposing back in 20 games.

"When somebody like that has firepower, they are going to get a play or two," coach Mike Tomlin said. "You are going to lose some battles. They are going to drop back and throw the football and they are going to make some plays. You can't get down on yourself and you can't blink."

It was a far cry from the defensive performance a week earlier, when the Steelers couldn't stop Jay Cutler and the Denver Broncos in a 31-28 defeat.

"You know they're going to move the ball on you," inside linebacker Larry Foote said. "Our goal is, don't give them any touchdowns. In the first half we gave them field goals. If we would have done that last week in Denver, we would have won."

In the end, the Bengals did very little damage to the Steelers. Johnson, a four-time Pro Bowl receiver, was held without a touchdown for the fifth game in a row. Palmer, despite trailing, 21-6, at halftime, passed for only 91 yards in the second half.

When it was over, the Bengals tied their lowest point production of the season (13 against New England Oct. 1) and the Steelers continued as the league's stingiest defense (91 points).

"To hold that offense to 13 points, on the road, in that type of situation they were in ... hats off to those guys," Tomlin said.

Actually, the Steelers' defense seemed more concerned about protecting its streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher, which has now reached a league-high 32 games in a row (just one in the past 57).

The mark was nearly in jeopardy because Watson, who played at Penn State and grew up in Harrisburg, was closing in on 100 yards late in the fourth quarter when the Bengals were at the Steelers' 20.

"I saw they were up in the 90s," said Haggans, referring to the Bengals' total rushing yards. "So I knew he was close."

But, just like that, Watson's attempt to perhaps become the first back since Edgerrin James to rush for more than 100 yards (Nov. 28, 2005) ended when outside linebacker James Harrison stripped the ball from Watson on a second-down pass play and recovered with 3:16 remaining. The Bengals challenged the play, but the officials did not overturn the call.

"Almost," Harrison said of Watson's attempt. "But not quite."

Watson finished with 88 yards on 19 carries, the most by an opposing back this season and the most since Jacksonville's Fred Taylor had 92 yards in Week 2 last season.

No matter. Since losing in overtime, 26-23, in Week 15 during the 2001 season, the Steelers have never lost in Cincinnati. In that stretch, the Bengals have managed just 10 touchdowns against the Steelers' defense -- or just four more than they managed in a Week 2 loss in Cleveland.
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