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Steelers starting to turn corner

10/22/2002

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Benching Kordell Stewart for journeyman Tommy Maddox three games into the season seemed like an act of
desperation. It might be the best move Pittsburgh Steelers coach
Bill Cowher could have made.

Maddox threw two touchdown passes to Hines Ward to lead the
Steelers to a 28-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Monday
night, looking as sharp and steady as a 10-year veteran rather than
a quarterback who has barely played in the NFL since 1992.

"I'm having the time of my life,'' said Maddox, the former XFL
star. "I'm not only doing this, but doing this with this group of
guys. We just want to keep this rolling.''

The Steelers were 0-2 and were heading toward what seemed to be
a third straight loss until Maddox rallied them to a dramatic
overtime victory over Cleveland. They have now won three of four.

"Now, you're seeing the real Steelers,'' Jerome Bettis said.
"I won't say we've turned the corner, but we're right there at the
stop light.''

Maddox's ability to spread the ball among his receivers has
revitalized the offense and gotten a previously stalled running
game going, Ward said.

"We were 0-2 and people were writing us off,'' Ward said.
"It's great to redeem ourselves.''

Bettis scored on two short touchdown runs in the first half
before leaving with a sprained left knee. Amos Zereoue replaced
Bettis and ran for 87 yards, all in the second half. The Steelers
also lost center Jeff Hartings to a left knee injury.

Hartings' injury is believed to be worse. Bettis said afterward
he has no ligament damage, but would know more Tuesday.

The Steelers, who opened a 21-0 lead, also were helped by their
special teams for a change rather than hurt by them. The complete
performance helped Pittsburgh (3-3) start to resemble the team that
went 13-3 a year ago and was favored to win the AFC this season.

The Colts (4-2) lost to Pittsburgh for the ninth straight time.

Terry Bradshaw, the Hall of Fame quarterback who became
estranged from the Steelers over the years, made a triumphant
return to thunderous cheers during a halftime ceremony. Maddox, who
lives only a mile from Bradshaw in Dallas, did a more than adequate
imitation of his neighbor by leading Pittsburgh to touchdowns on
its first three possessions.

"We were able to score early, and the offensive line, wow, you
just can't say enough about them,'' Maddox said.

The Steelers' defense, shredded in embarrassingly bad early
season losses to New England and Oakland, was again the disruptive,
playmaking force it was last season, helped by the return of
linebacker Kendrell Bell. The Steelers constantly forced Peyton
Manning into hurrying his passes, often slamming into him as he
delivered the ball.

"He makes a lot of checkoffs at the line of scrimmage, and
every time he made one, we made one, too,'' safety Lee Flowers
said. "He's still a great quarterback, but he fell into a trap.''

Manning finished 32-of-48 for 304 yards, but he threw three
interceptions, and Edgerrin James was ineffective, gaining only 62
yards on 20 carries.

Even after Indianapolis finally got into the end zone, on
Manning's 41-yard completion off a play-action fake to tight end
Marcus Pollard early in the third quarter, the Steelers' defense
made a momentum-altering play.

Manning was driving the Colts with a chance to cut it to 21-17,
but safety Mike Logan read Manning perfectly, staying just behind
the line of scrimmage rather than dropping into coverage to
intercept a pass thrown directly into his hands.

"They're a great defense and they did some things they hadn't
shown before,'' Manning said. "I would like to have some of those
throws back.''

Three plays after Logan's 41-yard return, Maddox hit Ward on a
leaping catch over cornerback Nick Harper for a 14-yard touchdown.

Ward's first touchdown, a 17-yarder less than five minutes into
the game on Pittsburgh's first possession, followed Joey Porter's
partial block of Hunter Smith's punt.

The punt traveled only 3 yards, and Maddox went on to throw a
17-yard scoring pass to Ward. Ward fooled the defense by going in
motion just ahead of the snap, resulting in a mismatch with
270-pound defensive end Chad Bratzke, who was five yards behind him
by the time the ball arrived.

"We're self-destructing a little, and we've got to eliminate
that,'' Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "We need to move the ball
better and score. We've got guys who can make plays, but first
you've got to et everybody comfortable.''

Maddox finished 15-of-23 for 188 yards as the Steelers mostly
stayed on the ground after building the big lead.

Game notes
Bettis left after gaining 33 yards on 11 carries, leaving
him 35 yards behind O.J. Simpson for 11th place on the NFL career
rushing list. ... The Colts are 0-12 in Pittsburgh, last winning
there in 1968. ... Pittsburgh came into the game 0-3 against teams
with winning records. ... The Colts, one of the NFL's best offenses
last season, have scored only two touchdowns in their last two
games.