Steelers Hand Jets 1st Loss

Kordell Stewart's composed, efficient play didn't earn him the job as starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. What it did was hand the New York Jets their first loss of the season.

Coach Bill Cowher declared that Kent Graham is still the starter after Stewart threw to Bobby Shaw for Pittsburgh's first touchdown pass of the season, leading the Steelers to a mistake-free 20-3 victory Sunday.

"Kent Graham is our starter, and as soon as he's ready, he'll play," Cowher said. "Kordell played well, but no ifs, ands or buts, it's a dead issue. Kent is the starter."

The Steelers (2-3) left no ifs, ands or buts to the outcome as they knocked out quarterback Vinny Testaverde on the Jets' first offensive play, then held backup Ray Lucas to 99 yards passing and forced four New York turnovers.

"The way I feel is one of those `beep' words," Al Groh said after his first loss as Jets coach. "I'll say the word if you want, but you'll have to beep it out."

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Game Summary

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  • The Jets (4-1), virtually injury-free in their first four games, lost Testaverde when the quarterback pinched a nerve when he was hit by linebacker Jason Gildon. Testaverde tore an Achilles' tendon in the first game last year and missed the rest of the season.

    Testaverde, who helped the Jets come back in the fourh quarter three times in their four victories, was hurt just as he was throwing an incomplete pass. He did not return.

    "I had this pinched nerve for about three weeks, but it wasn't as severe as it is now," Testaverde said. "He hit me right on the exact spot. My whole left side from the shoulder to the hand went numb. It's not as bad, but my hand is still numb as I speak."

    Stewart, who lost his job to Graham early this season but got it back last week when Graham hurt his left hip, was effective, if not spectacular.

    He was 17-of-26 for 140 yards, converted 10 of 18 third-down plays and completed passes to eight receivers in place of Graham who was active this week but did not play.

    Jerome Bettis added 107 yards rushing and the first touchdown on the ground against the Jets this season.

    "It's basically Kent's job," Stewart said. "Once he's healthy, he'll get a chance to play. I just have to stay ready."

    He credited his success to "staying relaxed. Don't stress."

    Pittsburgh did not have a turnover, while the Jets lost their first two fumbles of the season. Lucas was intercepted twice.

    "I'm a little down on myself," said Lucas, who led the Jets to an 8-8 record last year after they started 1-6 following Testaverde's injury. "A lot is expected of me as the No. 2 quarterback. I'm supposed to go in there and put points on the board.

    The Steelers nursed a 10-3 lead through most of the second half until Stewart sealed the outcome with an 87-yard drive, their second long march of the game, capped by his pass to Shaw. Kris Brown added a 29-yard field goal with 3:01 left.

    The Steelers, leading 3-0 after a 43-yard field goal by Brown on the final play of the first quarter, drove 94 yards in 13 plays for a 10-0 lead in the second period.

    The drive started after Gildon deflected a field-goal attempt by John Hall, and Pittsburgh's Lee Flowers inexplicably fielded the ball at the 5.

    Stewart was 5-for-7 for 46 yards on the long drive, and scrambled once for 20 more. Bettis ran the last 12 yards for the touchdown, with the Steelers winning a replay challenge that he got the ball over the goal line before he was down.

    Lucas used the last 1:40 of the first half to drive the Jets to a 40-yard field goal by Hall, making it 10-3.


  • Steelers left tackle Shar Pourdanesh left the game with an injured left knee.
  • Pittsburgh's record against the Jets is 13-1. Their last previous meeting in 1992, Cowher's first season.
  • Jets RB Curtis Martin lost a fumble in the third period, his first in 545 touches of the ball on a rush or reception. He had fumbled two other times during the streak, dating back to a 1998 playoff game at Denver, but lost neither.
  • The Jets had won eight straight games since last season.

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