As inconceivable as it might seem, the Pittsburgh Steelers finally met an offense worse than theirs.
The Steelers barely moved the ball as an injured Jerome Bettis didn't play and Kordell Stewart stayed in his season-long slump. But the Baltimore Ravens' dreadful offense was even worse in Pittsburgh's 16-6 victory Sunday.
If nothing else, the Steelers (4-2) keep perfecting the imperfect win.
It is a pattern they have followed all season - score just enough points to give one of the NFL's best defenses a chance to win. The league's second lowest-scoring team has only 66 points in its four victories and has scored no more than 20 points in any win.
"We got a win, but I don't feel like we won," said Charles Johnson, who scored the game's only touchdown on a 55-yard catch. "I'm concerned about the holes in our offense. I'm not as happy as the other guys in here."
But he was a lot happier than the Ravens (2-4), who led 6-3 at the half only to self-destruct.
They failed to score a touchdown for the second straight week - they lost 12-8 to Tennessee last week - and had five turnovers. And Eric Zeier and Jim Harbaugh were sacked seven times.
"I knew it wasn't going to be a 35-31 game. I just hoped we would execute and not beat ourselves, but that's what we ended up doing," Ravens coach Ted Marchibroda said. "We didn't make crucial plays at crucial times and it seemed to steamroll and get worse."
Baltimore was shut out 13-0 in the second half, managing only 103 yards.
The Ravens' Petr Boulware, asked if the defense blamed the offense, said, "I'm tempted to do it, but that would only make it worse. That would separate the team. There will be a day when the defense isn't doing the job and I don't want them jumping on us."
The Steelers defense feels the same way.
"We're not panicking, because we feel the offense will come around," defensive end Kevin Henry said. "The offense scored some points, and that's all you ask."
The Ravens threatened only once after the Steelers went ahead on Stewart's 55-yard pass to Johnson three plays after halftime, only the second Pittsburgh completion longer than 36 yards all season.
With Baltimore in position to take the lead after driving from its 35 to Pittsburgh's 14, Zeier's third-and-8 pass was tipped by Henry and intercepted by Dewayne Washington. Last week, Washington was beaten by Cincinnati's Carl Pickens for the game-winning touchdown as Neil O'Donnell deceived the Steelers defense by faking a spike.
| Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart eludes Baltimore's Rob Burnett in the first quarter. (AP) |
"We're only six games into the season, and it seems like we've been through it all," Washington said.
Harbaugh, who led Marchibroda's Indianapolis Colts in their last-play loss to Pittsburgh in the AFC title game three seasons ago, replaced Zeier (17-of-26, 173 yards, one interception) in the fourth quarter. But he was no better, going 0-for-6 with an interception, and Zeier returned for the final possession.
The Steelers increased their lead to 16-6 on Johnson's field goals of 42 and 40 yards in the final three minutes, the second following Jermaine Lewis' fumble.
Still, the Steelers must wonder how much longer they can keep winning with Stewart struggling to develop any rhythm with his receivers.
Stewart was 12-of-27 for 196 yards and an interception and was sacked four times. In his last 10 starts, dating to December, he has only five touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
Stewart's touchdown pass, in which he sidestepped a blitz to find Johnson three steps behind Duane Starks, was his first in four games. But Stewart didn't get much help from his running game, with Richard Huntley limited to 52 yards on 21 carries as Bettis sat out with a sprained knee.
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