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Pittsburgh... 41 St. Louis... 24

December 21, 2007|From the Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Willie Parker's season ended after his first carry, and the Pittsburgh Steelers will miss the NFL's leading rusher if they get to the playoffs. But they don't miss him yet.

Najeh Davenport, a career backup running back with typical nondescript statistics, has had two huge games since entering the league as a fourth-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2002. Both have come against the St. Louis Rams, with Davenport's two-touchdown, 123-yard rushing effort pacing a 41-24 victory Thursday night.

"I took it upon myself to put the offense on my back and carry it," Davenport said. "He's our guy, he's our breadwinner. Not having him, everyone has to pick it up a level."

Parker broke a bone in his lower right leg in the first quarter, giving the Steelers plenty of time to adjust to the new reality.

"Our heart goes out to him because he's a competitor, he's a warrior," Coach Mike Tomlin said. "As a team, we're not going to throw a pity party. It's part of the game, people get hurt, we'll adapt and improvise and move forward."

The Steelers' top-rated defense was porous again, yet they made enough stops to help Pittsburgh (10-5) out of a late-season swoon and move one step closer to the playoffs.

"With Willie down, it's going to take something away from us," said Nate Washington, who caught two touchdown passes. "If we dwell on Willie being down it's going to be that much tougher for us to get to [the Super Bowl], and we don't need anything else making it hard for us."

Isaac Bruce caught a 12-yard touchdown pass for the Rams (3-12) and moved into third place on the career yards receiving list. Marc Bulger threw three touchdown passes but also threw two interceptions, and Ike Taylor's 51-yard return on an overthrown ball on fourth-and-10 with 3:46 to go put the game out of reach.

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