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THE NFL / 1996

A Message Rams Are Unlikely to Forget

Interconference: Bettis returns to St. Louis and reminds former team what it traded away in 42-6 Pittsburgh rout.

November 04, 1996|From Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — With every carry, he glared in anger at his old coach. With every yard, Jerome Bettis sent a message of retaliation that could be heard clearly in St. Louis.

Bettis, who waited all season to get back at the team that gave him away, had 100 yards and two touchdowns by early in the second quarter, and the Pittsburgh Steelers routed the Rams, 42-6, Sunday.

Bettis, traded away on draft day for two draft picks, scored on Pittsburgh's first two drives and finished with 129 yards despite making only five second-half carries. He needs 47 yards for his third 1,000-yard season in four years.

"I said a lot to make him mad, how they gave up on him and said bad things about him," said Tim Lester, Bettis' blocking back in St. Louis and now in Pittsburgh. "He knows our situation is much better here: a better line, a better team--and better coaching."

Bettis outrushed the rookie who replaced him, Lawrence Phillips, 129-6, as the Steelers--7-2 for the first time since 1979--outrushed St. Louis, 248-64.

Erric Pegram, Bettis' backup, added a 91-yard kickoff return touchdown--Pittsburgh's first in nearly seven years--and a 17-yard touchdown run after sitting out most of five games because of a knee injury. And Kordell Stewart had two touchdown runs on quarterback draws.

Steeler quarterback Mike Tomczak was six for seven for 60 yards before being lifted for precautionary reasons because of a slight concussion. He could have returned, but, with a safe lead, the Steelers went with Jim Miller, who hadn't played since starting and losing the season opener in Jacksonville.

"I'm disappointed in our defense. We had an eight-man front to stop the run, and we didn't come close to stopping it," said Ram Coach Rich Brooks, who copied the scheme the Oilers used in defeating Pittsburgh two weeks before.

Asked if Bettis' long run proved he has the speed Brooks suggested he lacked, the coach said, "I could be a breakaway runner through that hole, let's be honest. . . . Yeah, he sent a message, but Pittsburgh's line sent a bigger message in my opinion."

After Bettis ran for 39 of the Steelers' 69 yards on an opening drive finished by his three-yard touchdown run, Brooks gambled by going for a first down on fourth and six from the Steeler 37.

But Myron Bell dropped Tony Banks for a 12-yard sack on a safety blitz--one of six Pittsburgh sacks--and Bettis scored from the 50 on the next play.

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