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Oilers Sweep Steelers 23-14


This time, Al Del Greco and the Tennessee Oilers got the field goal drill right.

Del Greco, who failed to get onto the field for a field goal attempt in their last home game, kicked a 22-yarder with three seconds left that lifted the Oilers over the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 23-14 victory Sunday.

He had been on the sideline practicing kicks on Oct. 25 while the field goal unit headed onto the field with the Oilers needing a 49-yard field goal against the Chicago Bears. Holder Craig Hentrich was forced to try the kick, which was blocked.

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"My picture was in the paper bearing down on that again today," Del Greco said after kicking his 11th game-winning field goal. "Hopefully that'll be gone. I've apologized enough, I hope, and we can go on and worry about the games coming up."

Now the Oilers (6-4), Who tacked on a final touchdown by covering a fumble on the kickoff in the end zone with time expired, are talking about their chances for the playoffs.

They have won three straight and five of their last six to move into a second-place tie with the Steelers (6-4) in the AFC Central. They also swept the Steelers for the first time since 1993, when they still called Houston home and last reached the playoffs.

"Pittsburgh is always a contender," said ilers tackle Gary Walker. "You know if you beat them, you're on the road to the playoffs. We need to take this and keep building on it and get us in there."

The Oilers didn't put away their division nemesis until their final drive.

The Steelers had a chance to put away the game when they stopped Eddie George on fourth-and-1, getting the ball back at the Pittsburgh 42 with 8:49 left.

But the Steelers stalled at the Tennessee 25 and wound up with their own fourth-and-1.

The Steelers were playing without kicker Norm Johnson, the sixth-leading scorer in NFL history. He was deactivated due to a calf injury, and his replacement, Matt George, was making his NFL debut. He was signed Friday from Chapman University, where he had enrolled after being cut during training camp.

George's

Kordell Stewart
Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart is stopped by Oilers defensive end Kenny Holmes on a fourth-down play in the first quarter. (AP)
first field goal attempt was blocked, so Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher decided to go for the first down.

"I now realize the importance of having a reliable kicker," Cowher said.

As Stewart took the snap, Walker slipped through and took him down by grabbing his ankles with 4:15 left.

"You have to go out there with an attitude," said Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis, who gained just 29 yards on 14 carries. "If you don't go out there with the attitude you're going to make it, then you won't. "

"They stopped us on fourth down, and that just shouldn't happen."

That gave the Oilers the ball at their 29.

Steve McNair missed his first two passes before finding tight end Frank Wycheck on a 31-yard play. McNair also found Derrick Mason on another third down, then George took over.

He picked up 12 yards to put the ball at the Pittsburgh 4, leaving it up to Del Greco. Del Greco, who had been standing close to the sideline for a couple of minutes, easily kicked his third field goal of the game.

Veteran Bruce Matthews, who snaps for field goals, admitted to nervousness.

"I shouldn't be nervous, but I'm very nervous, because with a ittle power in the fingers, I can launch it over Craig's head and we lose the game," he said.

The Steelers had their chances early. Lee Flowers intercepted McNair's pass on the Oilers' first play of the game. But they stalled inside the Tennessee 20 twice in the first quarter and wound up with no points.

Bettis couldn't get into rhythm as the Oilers keyed on him. Stewart responded by going to the air and finished 22-of-28 for 239 yards and two touchdowns, on passes to Mark Bruener and Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala.

Pittsburgh also focused on stopping the run, and George's five-game streak of 100-yard games ended. He had 25 carries for 79 yards.

Notes

  • Del Greco now has kicked three field goals in a game five times this season. He also extended his scoring streak to 69 games with his 46-yarder in the first quarter.
  • The Steelers lead the series 38-22; the Oilers now are 14-16 on their home turf.
  • Oilers safety Blaine Bishop missed the second half with an injured left knee and will have an MRI. Tackle Josh Evans sprained a knee ligament. Steelers back Fuamatu-Ma'afala hurt his left hamstring and missed most of the second half.
  • Oilers left tackle Brad Hopkins didn't start due to a severe groin strain, breaking his consecutive starts streak at 69.

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