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Oilers' Defense Shines, Shuts Out the Steelers

October 23, 1989|From Associated Press

HOUSTON — Warren Moon threw three touchdown passes in the first half, two to Alonzo Highsmith, and Houston's defense held Pittsburgh to 132 total yards in a 27-0 victory Sunday.

It was the Oilers' first shutout since 1980.

The win, coupled with Cincinnati's 23-12 loss to Indianapolis, gave Houston (4-3) a tie with the Bengals for the American Conference Central Division lead.

"We played well and made turnovers happen," said rookie safety Bubba McDowell, who intercepted two passes. "Coach (Jerry) Glanville told me on Monday that I couldn't make any more rookie mistakes."

The Oilers' last shutout came on Dec. 20, 1980, when they beat Pittsburgh, 6-0. The Steelers (3-4) had won three of their last four.

Quarterback Todd Blackledge, replacing injured Bubby Brister, led the Steelers to just 22 first-half yards, and Pittsburgh had only 42 at the start of the fourth quarter. Blackledge completed 11 of 27 passes for 105 yards and was Pittsburgh's leading rusher with 15 yards in three carries.

"Our game plan wasn't exotic," Glanville said. "We wanted to keep getting after them. It was fun to watch it. Any time you get a shut out and you run the ball and throw it, you've got to be happy."

Pittsburgh didn't cross midfield in the first half until the final seconds when Larry Griffin returned a short kickoff 21 yards to the Houston 49-yard line.

Pittsburgh reached Houston's five-yard line with 10:05 to play, but the defense held on downs as Blackledge's fourth-down pass sailed out of the end zone.

The Oilers scored on four of their five first-half possessions and took a 24-0 halftime lead.

Moon's three first-half touchdown passes went to Highsmith for three and five yards and 51 yards to Curtis Duncan. Duncan's catch was the longest of his career and came after he got behind cornerback Rod Woodson.

Tony Zendejas also kicked a 41-yard field goal.

McDowell's 18-yard interception return in the second quarter set up the field goal. His other interception ended Pittsburgh's final possession.

Dwight Stone fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Houston's Kenny Johnson recovered at the Steelers' 18, leading to a missed 31-yard field goal attempt by Zendejas.

Houston running back Mike Rozier made his first start of the season after sitting out training camp and recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. He gained 50 yards in 17 carries.

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