Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Pittsburgh does it again

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE The Steelers became the first team in NFL history to defeat consecutive undefeated teams who had played at least six games

AP AND NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , PITTSBURGH

Darrell Jackson of the Seahawks makes a reception against Joselio Hanson of the 49ers in San Francisco, California on Sunday. Seattle won the game 42-27.

PHOTO: AFP

The body blows came in staccato fashion, from the arm of a rookie quarterback and the legs of an old pro.

Ben Roethlisberger would give the ball to Jerome Bettis, and Bettis would lower his shoulder and appear on the other side of the line, dragging Philadelphia Eagles defenders -- one, two, three at a time -- across the chewed-up earth.

With 6 minutes left in the Pittsburgh Steelers' latest symphony, Coach Bill Cowher motioned for Bettis to join him on the sideline, smiled as he grabbed two fistfuls of Bettis' jersey, then tapped Bettis approvingly on the back of the head.

The last of the National Football League's undefeated had fallen.

"We're a great ball club," Steelers receiver Hines Ward said after Pittsburgh's 27-3 victory over the Eagles at Heinz Field, the second straight week the Steelers had taken down an unbeaten team here. "If we keep playing the way we're playing, we're going to be one of the teams to beat."

It looks like the Steelers (7-1) already are.

Instead of a letdown after stopping the New England Patriots' winning streak at 21 games last Sunday, the Steelers pounded the Eagles (7-1), becoming the first team in NFL history to defeat consecutive undefeated teams who had played at least six games.

With the divots and scuffs from the Patriots game still fresh, the 32-year-old Bettis, starting for the injured Duce Staley (hamstring), churned out 149 yards on 33 carries, his best game in three years.

"Age is just a number," Bettis said, "just like your shoe size."

Roethlisberger, the precocious Steelers quarterback, coolly completed 11 of 18 passes for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns, staking Pittsburgh to a lead that the Eagles never threatened.

After Ward scored a touchdown on the Steelers' opening drive, taking a handoff from Roethlisberger and scooting 16 yards on an end around, he put one foot on the football and flapped his arms like Eagles receiver Terrell Owens did the week before.

On the Steelers' next drive, Roethlisberger hit Ward on a 20-yard touchdown strike, and Ward reprised his act.

"I wasn't trying to show him up," Ward said of Owens, who celebrated a touchdown against Baltimore last Sunday by imitating Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. "I see him having fun doing it. What better way than to do it while he's out there?"

Owens cracked a smile when he saw Ward's imitation.

"Hines and I are good friends," Owens said. "I didn't have a problem with it. He can do whatever he wants. I just wish I had been on the receiving end."

But Owens never had the opportunity to reprise his Ray Lewis impression against Pittsburgh.

The Eagles were 0 for 8 on third down, and the Steelers sacked Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb four times.

Pittsburgh choked off McNabb's passing lanes, rendering Owens a bystander on most plays. Owens, who finished with seven catches for 53 yards, did not catch a pass until 7 minutes remained in the second quarter.

After that drive, which ended in a David Akers field goal that cut Pittsburgh's lead to 21-3, Owens could be seen shouting behind McNabb's back on the sideline and following McNabb as he tried to walk away.

It looked as if Owens was berating McNabb -- a tack Owens occasionally took with teammates and coaches while with the San Francisco 49ers -- but the two later said Owens was only trying to motivate McNabb.

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