Polamalu intercepts ex-college roommate to seal win

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers don't need quarterback
Ben Roethlisberger to win games, just to keep from losing them.
With victories in two promising starts, he's doing just fine.

Roethlisberger, showing uncommon poise for a rookie who wasn't
expected to play this season, twice rallied the Steelers (3-1) and
Duce Staley ran for 123 yards in a 28-17 victory Sunday over the
Cincinnati Bengals (1-3).

"You can just see him coming into his own," wide receiver
Plaxico Burress said. "He doesn't let anything bother him, and
that's what I like about him."

Roethlisberger went 17-of-25 for 174 yards, a touchdown and no
interceptions to better Carson Palmer in a QB duel that may be
repeated for years in the AFC North. Palmer drove the Bengals to
touchdowns on their opening drive of each half, but ended the game
with consecutive interceptions, giving him seven in four starts.

Palmer's former Southern Cal roommate, Troy Polamalu, finished
it off with a 26-yard interception return for a touchdown. Jerome
Bettis had given the Steelers a 21-17 lead with just over nine
minutes remaining with his second short-range touchdown.

Already, some Bengals fans are questioning the decision to bench
Jon Kitna, who threw 26 touchdown passes last season as the NFL
Comeback Player of the Year, and play Palmer.

"I'm not concerned with what people say," Palmer said. "I'm
only worried about what the coaches and players think. I'm going
about my business, trying to get better from week to week."

Roethlisberger, replacing the injured Tommy Maddox, is the first
Steelers rookie quarterback to win his first two starts since Mike
Kruczek won nine in a row in place of the injured Terry Bradshaw in
1976. The difference is that Roethlisberger isn't being supported
by arguably the best defense in NFL history.

"He's 2-0 and he's only going to get better," wide receiver
Hines Ward said. "He's still a rookie and he still makes mistakes.
Overall, he's making more good plays than bad plays and I think
he's getting more comfortable."

"I have not mastered this offense by any means,"
Roethlisberger said. "But the thing is we got the victory. You
lead the team when they need it the most, you go down the field and

Palmer, who was 20-of-37 for 164 yards with two interceptions,
showed why the Bengals drafted him No. 1 last year and why he still
has some maturing to do.

Palmer went 4-for-4 for 37 yards on third downs on a drive ended
by Rudi Johnson's 2-yard touchdown run, giving Cincinnati a 17-14
lead early in the third. Johnson ran for 123 yards in his fifth
career 100-yard game and first of the season.

But with the Bengals in position to beat a winning team
on the road for the first time in 42 games, a streak that dates to
a December 1990 victory in Pittsburgh, they couldn't score again.

"We've got to get it together fast," wide receiver Chad
Johnson said. "We're behind the 8-ball. We're in a position we
don't want to be in."

After the Bengals twice couldn't score after advancing to at
least the Pittsburgh 40, the Steelers drove 89 yards for Bettis'
go-ahead score. The key play was a 21-yard pass interference call
on Tory James against Plaxico Burress, with TV replays appearing to
show little contact by James.

"Tory was just playing the ball, and he has a right to the
ball," linebacker Kevin Hardy said.

The Bengals couldn't hold a 7-0 lead after Staley's first fumble
led to Jeremi Johnson's touchdown on a 2-yard pass midway through
the first quarter -- the Cincinnati offense's first touchdown in 32
possessions over three games.

The Steelers, winning consecutive games for the first time since
capturing their final three to close the 2002 regular season,
quickly answered. Roethlisberger's 30-yard completion to Burress
set up Bettis' 2-yard touchdown run, and Roethlisberger later found
Verron Haynes on an 11-yard pass play for Haynes' first career

Game notes
The Bengals played much of the game without cornerback
Rashad Bauman and safety Rogers Beckett, both of whom left early
with possible concussions. ... The Bengals won seven of nine after
starting 1-4 last year. ... Chad Johnson, doubled-teamed most of
the game, was held to four catches for 54 yards. .. Steelers coach
Bill Cowher is 18-7 against Cincinnati. ... The Steelers are 29-11
in October since 1994. ... The Steelers' Chris Gardocki punted five
times in his 200th game, giving him 1,002 attempts without a block.
... The Steelers' James Farrior has three fumble recoveries in four


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