Big Ben, Davenport power Steelers to victory

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' top defensive players
stood on the sidelines for most of the second half, but only a
couple of them were hurt. The rest stayed there simply because the
offense wouldn't let them on the field.

The Steelers' 4-1 start can by attributed partly to their stingy defense, which is off to a superb start of keeping their opponents off the scoreboard. Fewest points allowed by Steelers defense over first five games in franchise history:


Points allowed













The Steelers' 21-0 victory Sunday over Seattle, led by
quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's improvising and creativity, might
have been one of the few times where a shutout could be credited as
much to the offense as the defense.

Pittsburgh's offense took nearly a half to get going, then
couldn't be stopped as Roethlisberger directed three successive
lengthy touchdown drives highlighted by Najeh Davenport's runs and
a series of catches by backup receivers.

"Coach [Mike] Tomlin says that a lot: We've got 53 playmakers,
and you've got to make plays when your number is called,"
Davenport said. "A lot of guys' numbers got called."

Called most of all was Roethlisberger's No. 7.

He bounced back from a two-interception performance in the
previous week's 21-14 loss at Arizona to complete 13 consecutive
passes. It was an impressive display of versatility given starting
receivers Hines Ward (knee) and Santonio Holmes (hamstring) didn't
play. The Steelers' record is 15 completions in a row by Bubby
Brister in 1989.

Roethlisberger finished 18-of-22 for 206 yards and a touchdown.

"There were a lot of questions, obviously, with Hines being
down and Santonio [being ruled out] right before the game, but
there was no doubt in my mind those receivers would step up and
they did a great job," Roethlisberger said. "They got open for me
and caught the ball."

With Pittsburgh star Willie Parker held to 17 yards on 10
carries before he found a rhythm, the Steelers (4-1) stalled until
the 247-pound Davenport ran 45 yards to the Seahawks 20 late in the
second quarter of a scoreless game.

Roethlisberger found tight end Heath Miller for 13 yards and a
touchdown with just under two minutes left in the half to finish
off a 10-play drive. It was the first series of any consequence by
either team after nine consecutive punts.

On an unusually warm day, the Seahawks got tired merely sitting
on the sunny side of the field with the temperature in the high
80s. Members of Seattle's support staff created some shade by
holding large protective screens over the players' heads.

It didn't help a defense that was on the field nearly the entire
second half. The Steelers held a 24:53 to 5:07 edge in time of

Seattle completed only two passes in the second half against a
Steelers defense that was missing two injured Pro Bowl players,
safety Troy Polamalu (ribs) and nose tackle Casey Hampton

"We felt this game would be about attrition, we were going to
beat on you and beat on you and beat on you until you give up,"
Davenport said. "I think the run I had sparked the offense and got
things moving."

Of the Steelers' 18 receptions, only four were by a starter --
all by Miller. Cedrick Wilson had five catches for 69 yards,
including three on a long third-quarter drive. Davenport had four
catches. Nate Washington had three.

It wasn't quite a replay of the Steelers' 21-10 win over Seattle
in the February 2006 Super Bowl, except for Pittsburgh's ability to
prevent big plays by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and running back
Shaun Alexander. The Steelers led 342-144 in total offense.

"We broke down in some areas, and when you break down against a
good football team, you're in trouble," Seattle safety Brian
Russell said.

Hasselbeck was 13-of-27 for 116 yards. Alexander, playing with a
broken left hand, managed 25 yards on 11 ineffective carries after
gaining 353 yards in his first four games.

"I'm surprised, especially with them having two outstanding
players missing off their defense, and we were feeling pretty good
about our game offensively," tight end Marcus Pollard said of
Seattle's first shutout loss since a 23-0 defeat to Miami in 2000.

Seattle clearly missed receiver Deion Branch, who sprained his
right foot in the second quarter. He has frequently hurt the
Steelers, with 16 catches in his three previous games against them
while with New England.

The Seahawks' best chance to score came when Hasselbeck drove
them to the Steelers 14 in the final minute before halftime, only
to be intercepted by Ike Taylor at the goal line. That kept alive
the Steelers' streak of not allowing a first-half touchdown this
season. Seattle never threatened again.

Seattle (3-2) didn't even get the ball back until it trailed
14-0 late in the third quarter. Roethlisberger started the second
half by directing the Steelers' best drive of the season, a
17-play, 80-yarder that lasted nearly 10{ minutes.

Because of penalties, the Steelers had 110 yards of offense on
the drive, converting three times on third-and-long.

"I was a little disappointed, let me put it that way," Seattle
coach Mike Holmgren said. "Not much surprises me anymore, but I
was disappointed in our ability to handle some of those third down

Davenport finished off that long possession by scoring from the
1, and he scored again from the 5 to cap Pittsburgh's next drive.
Parker was starting to find running lanes by then and finished with
102 yards, his fourth 100-yard game this season.

Game notes
The Steelers are 3-0 at home, outscoring Buffalo, San
Francisco and Seattle by a combined 84-19. ... Former Steelers
coach Chuck Noll was a surprise guest and was introduced before
kickoff. ... Parker's 100-yard game was the 17th of his career. ...
The Steelers have given up only two field goals in the first half.
... Pittsburgh's last shutout was 41-0 over Cleveland late in 2005.
... The Steelers were 8-of-15 on third down.


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