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Steelers get big defensive effort in road win over Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota's six-game winning streak was built
on a steady dose of losing teams.

Then Pittsburgh came to town.

The Steelers forced three turnovers and a safety in an 18-3
victory over the Vikings on a sluggish Sunday afternoon, with the
only touchdown coming on Ben Roethlisberger's 3-yard run in the
second quarter.

Willie Parker rushed 14 times for 81 yards for Pittsburgh (9-5),
which won its second consecutive game and stayed in step with San
Diego (9-5) for the last AFC wild card spot.

"We did what we had to do," receiver Hines Ward said. "We'll
take it."

The Vikings (8-6) sealed their own demise at the end of an
embarrassing week. Four players, including the injured Daunte
Culpepper, were charged Thursday with three misdemeanors apiece for
lewd behavior in the infamous bye-week boat party.

"Our focus was great all week. I don't think that had anything
to do with it," said Brad Johnson, who threw two costly
interceptions -- including one in the end zone late in the first
half.

"They beat our butts."

The Vikings griped, too, about beating themselves.

"We are all human beings," coach Mike Tice said. "I'd be a
fool to say they're not frustrated."

The Vikings, who saw their wild-card hopes diminish, play at
Baltimore next week and finish with a home game against
division-leading Chicago. Five of their six wins during the winning
streak came against teams with a combined record of 20-35 coming
into the weekend.

Hundreds of Steelers fans were scattered throughout the
Metrodome, waving their Terrible Towels. There was just as much
yellow on the field, with referee Ed Hochuli's crew calling 25
penalties for 224 yards.

Jeff Reed made all three of his field goal attempts, and Joey
Porter and Larry Foote teamed up on a fourth-quarter tackle of
Michael Bennett in the end zone to give Pittsburgh an extra two
points.

"No turnovers. That's the biggest thing," said Roethlisberger,
forgetting a muffed first-quarter punt return by Antwaan Randle El
that gave Minnesota the ball at the 3-yard line. That was the first
of four Vikings possessions inside their opponent's 20, and the
only time they scored.

One lousy field goal, by Paul Edinger.

"That's embarrassing," guard Adam Goldberg said. "That's
something we need to get remedied."

Minnesota's remedy for a 2-5 start to the season was a drastic
spike in turnover margin, forcing 22 of them during the streak --
which coincided with Johnson's takeover at quarterback for
Culpepper.

Those halcyon days came to a halt against a Pittsburgh team that
was probably better than any the Vikings had beaten over the past
month and a half.

"It wasn't that we weren't prepared or we were scared or
anything," Koren Robinson said. "At the same time, we were
playing against a good defense, too. Sometimes the ball just don't
roll your way."

Even the previously stellar special teams slumped for Minnesota.
Rookie Chris Kluwe, punting with a sprained right knee that kept
him out the previous week, sent an end-over-end kick to Randle El
midway through the second quarter that was returned for 72 yards.

Seven plays later, Roethlisberger felt the rush, lowered his
head and charged left toward the pylon with Pat Williams in pursuit
-- diving into the end zone for a 3-yard score and a 10-3 lead.

Rookie Ciatrick Fason collided with Robinson on Reed's
intentionally short kickoff in the third, fumbling and losing the
ball to Pittsburgh's Tyrone Carter -- a former University of
Minnesota star who once played for the Vikings. That led to Reed's
third field goal, this one from 26 yards, and a 16-3 advantage late
in the quarter.

Roethlisberger, playing with a splint and glove on his right
hand to protect his banged-up thumb, completed 10 of 15 passes for
149 yards and no turnovers while using a silent snap count most of
the game to circumvent the crowd noise.

Johnson went 16-for-30 for 143 yards, including a woeful
2-for-9, 9-yard output after halftime. Minnesota managed 25 total
yards in the final two quarters.

"I can't say enough about the 'D'," Roethlisberger said. "It
was amazing today. So much fun to watch."

Game notes
Robinson led the Vikings with three catches for 34 yards.
... Steelers tight end Heath Miller caught a 50-yard pass to set up
an early field goal. ... Tight end Jermaine Wiggins, tackle Marcus
Johnson and center Melvin Fowler each left with second-half ankle
injuries for Minnesota.