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|11-04-2008, 07:18 AM||#1|
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Steelers Overcome Bad Start
Steelers overcome bad start, injuries to Ben Roethlisberger, Heath Miller as defense puts a big hurt on Redskins
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
LANDOVER, Md. -- The Steelers won't say they thrive off their injuries, but they did it again last night and this was the big one.
It was all about shoulders. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left the game at halftime with a right shoulder injury. Byron Leftwich replaced him and carried the Steelers on his shoulders to a 23-6 victory against the Washington Redskins.
"I can play this game," said Leftwich, a Washington D.C., native who described himself as a "die-hard Redskins fan."
"I can play this game in Canada, I can play this game in Alaska, I can play this game anywhere."
Their first win against an NFC East team in three tries this season lifted the Steelers to 6-2 at the midway point of the season. Washington fell to 6-3.
Roethlisberger said his right shoulder was injured when he pulled a quarterback sneak for a 1-yard touchdown with 32 seconds left in the first half. Earlier in the second quarter, he shook his right hand in pain after it struck a defensive player on a follow through.
Roethlisberger completed just 5 of 17 passes for 50 yards and one interception. He said after the game that he felt he would be "OK." Coach Mike Tomlin said he'll know more about the injury today.
Leftwich came on, and the Steelers' sluggish offense came to life. He led them to a touchdown on his first drive, after completing a 50-yard pass to Nate Washington. Willie Parker, who finished with 70 yards rushing in his first game since Sept. 21, ended that drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Leftwich then guided them to a second touchdown early in the fourth quarter, throwing a 5-yard pass to Santonio Holmes to complete a 12-play, 77-yard scoring drive.
Leftwich, signed as a free agent in August after Charlie Batch's collarbone was broken, completed 7 of 10 passes for 129 yards and one touchdown.
"Byron Leftwich came home tonight to D.C. and put together a winning performance for us," Tomlin said. "He's a popular guy in that locker room right now."
Leftwich had help on the other side of the ball, too, because the Steelers' defense suffocated the Redskins. They sacked Washington quarterback Jason Campbell seven times with LaMarr Woodley getting two and James Harrison 1 1/2. They held the Redskins to 60 yards rushing and 221 total yards.
When Washington had a good drive going in Steelers territory late in the third quarter, cornerback Deshea Townsend ended it with an interception at the 23, the first interception thrown by Jason Campbell this season, ending a Redskins record of 271 completions without one.
"That was big," Townsend acknowledged. "It was one of the best drives they had going.
"The one thing about the West Coast offense, once you get a bead on it, you can figure it out. We stopped the run, we got to the quarterback well and we didn't give up big plays and, when you do that, chances are you're going to win."
The defense kept the Steelers in the game early while the offense did little and a roll of the dice put them in a quick hole.
Tomlin's gamble on the opening kickoff backfired when the Redskins recovered an onside attempt, and turned it into a 3-0 lead on Shaun Suisham's 44-yard field goal.
"We came in to play aggressively," Tomlin explained.
The Redskins then intercepted Roethlisberger's third pass on the Steelers' first series. Defensive end Andre Carter batted the pass into the air, it bounced off the back of offensive tackle Max Starks and into the hands of defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin at the Steelers 30.
Again, the Redskins could not pick up a first down, so Suisham booted a 43-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead.
The Steelers finally scored with 8:09 left in the first half on Jeff Reed's 35-yard field goal. The score was set up when Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers was flagged for a 43-yard pass-interference penalty on Hines Ward.
It gave the Steelers the ball at Washington's 36 and, two plays later, Holmes might have had a 36-yard touchdown reception, except the ball went through his hands at the goal line for his second drop of the game.
Nevertheless, the Steelers took their first lead soon thereafter, and it came about in rare fashion -- a blocked punt. Andre Frazier broke free of the right side and stretched out to block Ryan Plackemeier's punt. William Gay recovered at the Redskins 13. It was the first punt blocked by the Steelers in more than two seasons.
A sack and a penalty pushed the Steelers back to the 24, but Roethlisberger completed a 9-yard pass to Holmes and, on third down, 12 yards to Ward, who almost got a touchdown. Roethlisberger finished the drive by sneaking less than a yard to the left of center Justin Hartwig.
Soon after, the seemingly indestructible quarterback was running into the locker room to be checked by the doctors.
Leftwich added some quick punch when he replaced Roethlisberger to start the second half. His first pass was caught by Nate Washington for a 50-yard completion, the fourth consecutive game he has caught a pass of 48 yards or more.
Leftwich then completed a key third-down pass of 7 yards to Mewelde Moore to the 1, and Parker scored from there.
Reed missed the extra point, hooking it wide left to keep the Steelers' lead at 16-6. It was Reed's first such miss since 2003.
After Townsend's interception ended a Redskins drive, Leftwich took the Steelers back on another scoring ride. He completed passes of 16 to Holmes, 13 and 25 to Mewelde Moore and 13 on third down to Ward.
He then rifled a pass in the left front corner to Holmes, who dived over the pylon for a touchdown. Reed banged home the point this time, and the Steelers led, 23-6, early in the fourth quarter.
"I wasn't going to be denied, man,'' Holmes said.
Tomlin challenged a ruling that Campbell scored from 6 yards out with 7:19 left, and replays clearly showed that both Campbell's knee and shoulder touched the ground a yard before the goal line.
On the next play, Campbell rolled to his right and threw a pass to defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander, eligible on the play, but it never got there because linebacker James Farrior knocked it down.
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