Steelers Beat Seattle With Defense And Improvisation

Monday, October 8th 2007, 10:41 am
By: News On 6

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Chuck Noll made one of his infrequent ventures to a Steelers game, so new Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin sought out the only coach to win four Super Bowls, shook his hand and exchanged a few words with the Hall of Fame coach he had never met.

Coincidence or not, the Steelers went out and beat offense-less Seattle 21-0 Sunday in a game that was supposed to be a rematch of the February 2006 Super Bowl, but more closely resembled those played by Noll's 1976 Steelers.

Everywhere Tomlin looked along the sideline, he saw an injured player. Pro Bowl defensive players Troy Polamalu and nose tackle Casey Hampton were out and so were starting receivers Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes. Left tackle Marvel Smith also was hurt during the game, though he returned.

So, cribbing from Noll's tattered book of coaching improvisation, Tomlin did some tinkering here, some jury-rigging there. And on a day when the Steelers (4-1) had only three healthy wide receivers, when they couldn't move the ball past midfield until late in the second quarter, when star Willie Parker managed only 17 yards on his first 10 carries, they dominated Seattle (3-2) on both sides of the ball.

``We got it handed to us pretty good today,'' Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said.

Yeah, and by what essentially was the Steelers' junior varsity, too.

``Football is unpredictable, but it is predictably unpredictable,'' Tomlin said. ``You feel good about your preparation and you feel good about your planning, so when it (the unexpected) does occur, it is a non-issue.''

The Steelers' defense stuffed the Seahawks in the first half, forcing them to punt five consecutive times before halting their only serious scoring threat with an Ike Taylor interception of Matt Hasselbeck at the goal line.

After that, the Seattle offense was virtually invisible, and not only because the Seahawks produced only 144 yards all day. With the Steelers in possession for nearly 25 minutes in the second half, Seattle had the ball for all of 17 plays and four punts after halftime.

``Man, I've never sat on my can for so long in a second half,'' Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. ``I was thinking about ordering a pizza.''

Call it Live at the Steelers Improv, starring Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who ran a patchwork offense to near perfection for most of three quarters.

``At this level, everyone is on full scholarship,'' Seattle tight end Marcus Pollard said. ``There is really not a bad player in the NFL and they really came out and proved that today. They didn't have Hines Ward and they didn't have Troy Polamalu and, with those two guys out we really thought we had a great chance to pull off a win here.''

Might have helped if Seattle had gotten more than eight first downs or completed more than two passes in the second half, the kind of stats regularly produced against those 1976 Steelers.

That team, coming off two Super Bowl victories, lost quarterback Terry Bradshaw to injury during a succession of early season misfortune. But, led by a defense that went nearly six consecutive games without giving up a touchdown and had five shutouts in its last nine games, those Steelers rebounded from a 1-4 start to go 10-4 and make the playoffs.

Only this Steelers shutout 31 years later belonged as much to the offense as the defense, even though Seattle star Shaun Alexander, bothered by a broken left hand, ran only 11 times for 25 yards. Seattle also wasn't helped when star receiver Deion Branch sprained his right foot during the second quarter and didn't return.

``I felt early that we were really ready and that we'd have a great day,'' Seattle's Brian Russell said.

After stalling early, the Steelers got going on a 45-yard run by backup running back Najeh Davenport that led to Roethlisberger's 13-yard touchdown throw to tight end Heath Miller and a 7-0 halftime lead.

Roethlisberger started the second half by leading a 17-play, 80-yard drive that lasted nearly 10 1/2 minutes and ended with the first of Davenport's two short TD runs. As the Seattle defense wore down on a sunny day with unseasonably warm temperatures in the mid-80s, the Seattle offense could only stand around and watch.

``Everyone took it upon their own shoulders to make plays,'' said Roethlisberger, who completed his final 13 passes _ two off the team record.

Parker finished with 102 yards after finally finding some running room in the second half, but only four of the 18 catches were by a starter, Miller. Davenport, used infrequently until now, ran for 58 yards on seven carries and made four catches for 38 yards.

``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.''

Kind of like 1976.

Notes: Seattle hadn't been shut out in the regular season since a 20-0 defeat to Miami in 2000. ... Roethlisberger was 9-for-9 with 118 yards in the second half. ... Miller and Roethlisberger have combined on 11 TD passes during their three seasons together. ... Steelers K Jeff Reed didn't attempt a field goal for the second week in a row. ... The Steelers are off next weekend. ... Pittsburgh has won its last eight at home against the NFC. ... Seattle was outgained 342-144 a week after owning a 371-184 edge while beating San Francisco 23-3.