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Steeler Defense Rekindles Fond Memories

October 23, 2000|From Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't had consecutive performances so dominating since the Steel Curtain days. Of course, the way their offense is playing, their defense almost has to be perfect.

The Steeler defense took advantage of Cleveland backup quarterback Doug Pederson to earn its second shutout in a row in a 22-0 victory Sunday.

The last time the Steelers (4-3) had consecutive shutouts was 1976.

"The Steelers are the team that invented hard-nosed football," safety Lee Flowers said. "Any time you shut out teams two weeks in a row, it's a big accomplishment in the NFL. And we did it against a team we can't stand."

The Browns (2-6) lost their fifth in a row and have won only four times in 24 games since returning to the NFL last season.

"We were talking about it [a shutout] in the second quarter, we were talking about it in the first quarter," defensive lineman Kimo von Oelhoffen said. "And we can't let it drop off."

Especially not with games at Baltimore (5-3) and Tennessee (6-1) the next two weeks. The Steelers won their fourth in a row with a near replay of a 15-0 victory over Cincinnati and baffled quarterback Akili Smith last week.

This time, Jerome Bettis ran for 105 yards in 33 carries for his third consecutive 100-yard game, and Kris Brown kicked five field goals, three after interceptions.

Bettis' one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter made it 10-0. That score came after a 54-yard punt return by Hank Poteat and a debatable roughing-the-passing penalty on linebacker Jamir Miller.

"But we can't beat the playoff-caliber teams we've got coming up this way," Bettis said. "We've got to start playing better offensively so we can match the defense."

Cleveland has lost five in a row since beating Pittsburgh, 23-20, on Sept. 17, when Kent Graham was sacked by Courtney Brown on the final play, negating a chance for a tying field goal.

Sunday, Graham was pulled midway through the second quarter after completing three of 12 passes for 46 yards. Kordell Stewart replaced him and led all but one scoring drive. Stewart passed for only 74 yards, but was mistake-free, then was told by Coach Bill Cowher he will start Sunday in Baltimore.

"We know we've got to get better," Stewart said of an offense that has scored four touchdowns in three games. "I'm not putting any pressure on myself, I'm just going out and trying to seize this opportunity."

The Browns missed injured quarterback Tim Couch, failing to cross midfield until a long kickoff return in the fourth quarter. They finished with 104 yards of offense and five first downs. Pederson completed nine of 20 passes for 61 yards.


Grounded Players


Player Years Att. Yards Avg. TD Walter Payton 13 3,838 16,726 4.4 110 Barry Sanders 10 3,062 15,269 5.0 99 Emmitt Smith* 11 3,372 14,482 4.3 141 Eric Dickerson 11 2,996 13,259 4.4 90 Tony Dorsett 12 2,936 12,739 4.3 77 Jim Brown 9 2,359 12,312 5.2 106 Marcus Allen 16 3,022 12,243 4.1 123 Franco Harris 13 2,949 12,120 4.1 91 Thurman Thomas* 13 2,866 12,033 4.2 65 John Riggins 14 2,916 11,352 3.9 104 O.J. Simpson 11 2,404 11,236 4.7 61 Ottis Anderson 14 2,562 10,273 4.0 81 Ricky Watters* 9 2,388 9,652 4.0 73 Earl Campbell 8 2,187 9,407 4.3 74 Jerome Bettis* 8 2,273 9,091 4.0 47


*--denotes active

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