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Steelers Come Back After Blowing Lead

November 25, 2002|From Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers still don't know how to play with a huge lead. Good thing they were playing the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Steelers frittered away a 17-point lead for the second consecutive home game, but rallied for a 29-21 victory Sunday after the bumbling Bengals fumbled away a punt and a late lead.

The Bengals (1-10) led, 21-20, until T.J. Houshmandzadeh's fumbled punt with 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the game led to rookie Jeff Reed's third field goal. Jerome Bettis followed with his second touchdown on a 79-yard rushing day that moved him past O.J. Simpson into 11th place in career rushing. Bettis has rushed for 11,287 yards.

But when Reed missed the extra point, the Bengals still had a chance to force overtime. They drove to a first down at the Steeler five in the final minute before Jon Kitna threw four consecutive incompletions, with Chad Scott knocking away a pass intended for Chad Johnson on fourth down.

"I think we just got fed up," Steeler safety Brent Alexander said. "We all said to each other, 'Don't be the guy to give up the touchdown." '

In a similar situation last week, Corey Dillon twice couldn't get into the end zone from the one in the final minute of the Bengals' 27-20 loss to Cleveland.

"I say it over and over, but it's true," Johnson said. "It's just a play here and a play there. We don't make a play and it kills us."

Kordell Stewart replaced the injured Tommy Maddox and completed 22 of 26 passes for 236 yards, but the Steelers (6-4-1) stalled for more than two quarters after surging to a 17-0 lead.

"I was like a kid playing in a sandbox," Stewart said, and not just because the sandy Heinz Field turf was in terrible shape. "I was excited just to have an opportunity again."

Especially since Maddox, who made a quick recovery from the scary injury in Tennessee last week that left him temporarily paralyzed, might return Sunday against Jacksonville. Coach Bill Cowher will decide after Maddox sees his doctor early this week.

Hines Ward, who had his third consecutive 100-yard game, became the first Steeler receiver with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Roy Jefferson (1968-69).

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