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Steelers quiet Owens on field

PITTSBURGH -- In a relatively quiet Philadelphia Eagles locker room, where the voice of Terrell Owens provided the only hint of any noise louder than a whisper, the colorful and controversial wide receiver revealed he had phoned Ray Lewis last week to apologize for his much-documented remarks about the Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker.

Perhaps Owens might have saved a mea culpa for his Eagles teammates as well, following a pretty sorry performance by both him and the offense in general during a 27-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Owens entered the game with 42 receptions for 697 yards and nine touchdowns. His nine scores represented half of the Eagles' total of 18 for the year. Only in an Oct. 17 victory over Carolina had the verbose playmaker failed to get into the end zone.

By any standard, though, Owens' output here Sunday, against a Pittsburgh secondary that never had to resort to the few gimmick coverages coordinator Dick LeBeau implemented for the matchup, was microscopic. One clever fan sported a sign that read, "T.O. ripped my other sign," a clear reference to the fact Owens had shredded a homemade placard during a recent victory.

Owens, however, hardly tore up the Steelers defense.

He finished the afternoon with just seven catches for 53 yards, his longest reception for 20 yards in the third quarter. In fact, a short, third-quarter flurry, in which he had grabs of 13 and 20 yards on successive plays, represented the most noise he made on the field.

Off the field, Owens, who unofficially had 13 passes thrown to him, appeared at one point in the second half to be in an animated conversation with Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. The television cameras showed Owens following McNabb on the sideline, and the popular conclusion was that he was lobbying for the ball. But Owens insisted after the game that he was merely attempting to pump up McNabb, not pump him for more action.

"Donovan is obviously a competitor, and I am, too," Owens said. "It's going to be like that sometimes. It's nothing different than when we are at practice. We both try to pick each other up. ... Things just happen."

What didn't happen Sunday was Owens having any sort of impact on the game. While the Steelers' early 21-0 lead forced Philadelphia to abandon the run, their passing game was obviously out of sync, and it didn't help that the Pittsburgh defense broke through to sack McNabb four times. With defenders in his face throughout, McNabb reverted to the scattershot passer so often witnessed in past seasons.

He completed only 15-of-24 passes for a season-low 109 yards, had one notably horrible interception and posted just three completions of more than 10 yards. To his credit, and despite some politicking by Owens, he didn't try to force the ball to his star wide receiver.

Had he, Steelers defenders said, it wouldn't have mattered.

"We just pretty much played him straight-up, not all man-to-man, but not anything out of the ordinary," said cornerback Willie Williams, who started a second straight game in place of the injured Chad Scott. "He's a great player and, honestly, we had a couple of special things planned for him. But you know what? We never had to use them. Never."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.