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Old 10-11-2009, 10:03 PM   #1
A Son of Martha

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Default Steelers rush hounds Daunte Culpepper all game

Steelers rush hounds Daunte Culpepper all game
The Detroit News

(Thought yuins might find the opposing teams point of view of interest. - mesa)

Detroit -- The Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers showed Daunte Culpepper he would be pressured heavily from the Lions' opening play Sunday afternoon at Ford Field.

Culpepper, who made his first start of the season filling in for rookie Matthew Stafford, was thrown to the turf on his first play by Steelers' linebacker James Harrison.

Harrison consistently harassed Culpepper, collecting three of Pittsburgh's seven sacks during the Steelers' 28-20 victory.

The Steelers ended Culpepper's comeback bid, sacking him four times on the Lions' final drive, including three straight after he advanced them to Pittsburgh's 21 in the final minutes. Culpepper's fourth-down pass from the 45 was batted away near the end zone with 1:09 left.

Former Michigan linebacker LaMarr Woodley and cornerback William Gay each had a sack and combined for another during the Steelers' final four sacks.

"Right play call and everybody out there doing their job," Woodley said of the Steelers' defense on the Lions' final series. "We were able to get in there and make sacks. Not only were they losing downs, but they were also losing yards and getting further away from the end zone. He (Gay) did his job (on the corner blitz). He got one sack and forced another.

"Early on they were doing a lot of screen plays and at the end they were racing against the time a little bit."

Harrison agreed.

"For the most part we kept consistent pressure on them," Harrison said. "The screens were directly from our pressure and they couldn't do that at the end, especially with down and distance from the sacks we were getting. They also didn't have timeouts to burn."

Steelers' free safety Ryan Clark said Harrison was the key to the victory.

"They couldn't block James," Clark said. "He was putting pressure on all day and that got Culpepper kind of antsy and that got them out of their game. They were running a lot of screens and running a lot of draws."

The Steelers forced Culpepper into a mistake when he was called for intentional grounding after the Lions had a first and goal at the 7 in the opening quarter. The Lions had to settle for a field goal.

With Pro-Bowl safety Troy Polamalu sidelined with an injury, the Steelers had trouble closing games, a reason they entered Sunday's game with a .500 record (2-2). The Bears (17-14) and Bengals (23-20) each scored in the final minute to hand the Steelers their losses this season.

"We're not the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers," Clark said. "We're the '09 Pittsburgh Steelers who have been having trouble in the fourth quarter. Teams are coming at us, believing they can win games in the fourth quarter.

"I'm more excited in the fourth quarter. We were up 28-13 (before Culpepper's 25-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Northcutt with 4:57 left). There were some games last year when we knew we were going to win and we could kind of relax. I was playing free safety and didn't get no action.

"Now it's exciting. It's a challenge and that's why we play the game. I welcome the challenge."

The Steelers won't have to answer questions this week on why they have so much trouble closing out games.

Roethlisberger's resilience

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger knows how to bounce back from a mistake.

Roethlisberger's pass to the right sideline for Mike Wallace was intercepted by William James and returned 38 yards for a touchdown to pull the Lions within 14-13 with 6:52 left in the half.

All Roethlisberger did was complete the next 13 passes, including a 17-yard throw to Hines Ward to give the Steelers a 21-13 halftime lead and a 47-yard toss to Wallace to open a 28-13 lead in the third quarter.

"Give credit to William James, who jumped on that ball, a nice break," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "But Ben doesn't blink, our offense doesn't blink, hopefully our football team doesn't blink. We went right back to work, which is of course what we needed to do and answer and quell that momentum and I thought we were able to do that."

Roethlisberger completed 23 of 30 for 277 yards and three touchdowns.

Special teams

Reporters huddled around Woodley's locker following the game, giving backup linebacker Patrick Bailey little room to get dressed.

Few noticed a big special teams play by Bailey to keep Lions kick returner Derrick Williams from bringing back a second-quarter kickoff for a possible touchdown.

Williams had just returned a kickoff 34 yards to give the Lions good field position on their second series, which led to a field goal.

Williams was set for an even longer return, but Bailey grabbed him from behind at the Lions 35 midway through the second quarter.

Copyright 2009 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.
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