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Old 10-12-2009, 12:06 AM   #1
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Default Steelers able to hold off Lions for victory

Steelers able to hold off Lions for victory
By Scott Brown
Monday, October 12, 2009

DETROIT Maybe Dick LeBeau reached a breaking point.

Or maybe the venerable defensive coordinator figured if his players were going to fall victim to another late rally, they were at least going to do things his way, which is to say the Steelers' way.

With the defense backed into the shadow of its end zone late Sunday afternoon, LeBeau threw everything but the Ford Field peanut vendors at Detroit quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

Three consecutive sacks led to a desperation heave that Ike Taylor knocked down in the end zone, and the defensive stand allowed the Steelers to survive an upset bid by the Lions.

After hanging on for a 28-20 win, the Steelers have their first winning streak of the season. They'll get a chance to string together three consecutive victories Sunday when they host the Cleveland Browns, whom they haven't lost to since 2003.

The Steelers improved to 3-2 after their offense dominated the first half and the defense made the kind of stop that had eluded it for the most part this season.

It came after Culpepper moved the Lions (1-4) to the Steelers' 21 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Steelers responded to the charge by burying Culpepper under an avalanche of blitzers at the end of their first game in Detroit since they won Super Bowl XL here in 2006.

"I'm content for right now," said outside linebacker James Harrison, who notched three of the Steelers' seven sacks, "but we need to start finishing a lot better."

The Steelers couldn't have gotten off to a much better start offensively.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger picked the Lions apart by spreading the ball around, while Rashard Mendenhall again ran with patience and authority.

Mendenhall, starting his second consecutive game for the injured Willie Parker, rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown. His first-quarter score, which came on a 7-yard run, gave the Steelers a lead they would never relinquish.

Roethlisberger threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns and hooked up with six different receivers seven if you count Lions cornerback William James (formerly Peterson).

James intercepted Roethlisberger in the second quarter and returned the pick 38 yards for the Lions' only touchdown of the first half.

One of the few recent throws by Roethlisberger that did not end up in the hands of his intended target allowed the Lions to cut the Steelers' lead to 14-13 in the second quarter.

"The guy just made a great play," Roethlisberger said of James, a graduate of Laurel Highlands High School. "I went to the sideline right away and told (offensive coordinator Bruce Arians), 'Let me call this series, this drive.'"

Given a short field because of Stefan Logan's 49-yard kickoff return, Roethlisberger needed just six plays to get the Steelers into the end zone and allow them to take a 21-13 lead into intermission.

On the Steelers' first possession of the second half, rookie Mike Wallace made amends for dropping a deep pass earlier by hauling in a 47-yarder for his first NFL touchdown.

Wallace had to wait on the pass because Roethlisberger thought his eyes might be playing a trick on him as he scanned the field.

"I hesitated throwing it," Roethlisberger said, "because I was looking for a safety. I'm like, 'he can't be this open.'"

Not that the Steelers were in the clear after building a 28-13 lead against a team that went 0-16 last season.

Culpepper, starting for injured rookie Matthew Stafford, had almost 300 yards of total offense. But he couldn't get the yards when the Lions needed them most as LaMarr Woodley, William Gay and Lawrence Timmons staged a sack parade at the end of the game.

"I think when coach LeBeau makes those blitz calls, everyone's like 'OK, let's go,' said Steelers free safety Ryan Clark, who had seven tackles and an interception. "That's who we are. That's how we like to play. That's how we like to win games. I think coach LeBeau had that same sense that we were going to go after them and whatever happened, happened."

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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