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Jaguars defense stymies Steelers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Sept. 18, 2006) -- Ben Roethlisberger gingerly walked off the field near the end of the game, grimacing and grasping his side after another hard hit.

Big Ben was back. He wasn't back to form, though -- and the Jacksonville Jaguars defense had a lot to with that.

Wearing protective padding around his midsection, Roethlisberger returned to Pittsburgh's lineup Monday night, barely two weeks after an emergency appendectomy. The Jaguars made him pay for his courage, harassing the quarterback and stopping the defending Super Bowl champions' nine-game winning streak with a 9-0 victory -- the lowest-scoring game in Monday Night Football history.

"A lot of it was my fault," Roethlisberger said. "I told coach I'll be OK. When I get some more practice and get on the same page with the receivers, we'll be good."

Pittsburgh couldn't run it either, managing only 20 yards on Willie Parker's 11 carries and 26 yards overall.

Josh Scobee kicked three field goals for the Jaguars (2-0), who improved to 4-0 against the Steelers in September and 3-0 against them on Monday night.

The Steelers (1-1) kept it close all game, and got the ball back with about five minutes to play, down 6-0. But Rashean Mathis intercepted Roethlisberger's slant pass and returned it into field goal range.

Scobee kicked his third field goal, a 42-yarder with 4:26 left. He had a 31-yarder late in the third and a 32-yarder earlier in the fourth, and that's all Jacksonville would need.

"We moved the ball well, but we did a bad job of scoring points," quarterback Byron Leftwich said. "To move to the next level, we've got to have more than nine points but, we played a tough team, man. The Super Bowl champs. It was a tough, physical game and we came out on top."

Mathis picked off another one with 1:44 remaining, sending Roethlisberger walking slowly to the bench. Mathis also sealed last year's victory at Pittsburgh, intercepting a pass in overtime and returning it 41 yards for the decisive score.

The shutout was Jacksonville's first since December 2003 against Houston. It also was the fifth time the defending Super Bowl champions have been shut out; the 1980 Steelers were blanked once, and the 1981 Raiders were shut out three times.

"If you come in here with the mindset of running the ball on us, you may want to rethink that philosophy," Jags defensive end Paul Spicer said. "It ain't going to be that easy."

Added running back Fred Taylor: "That's definitely one of the best defensive performances that I've seen since I've been here."

Roethlisberger might agree. He threw his hands up in frustration after his first interception, then walked off the field with his hands on side following his next possession, when he took a jolting shot to his midsection after throwing a pass.

He was sacked twice and knocked down several more times.

"It was a lot of good hitting out there," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. "Two real physical teams going at it out there. I'm real proud of the effort they put forth."

Coach Bill Cowher might be questioned for sending Roethlisberger out against Jacksonville's aggressive defense -- especially after his star quarterback woke up feeling sick Sunday and had a fever earlier Monday -- but he wanted to get him ready for next week's game against division rival Cincinnati.

"I forgot how this feeling is," Roethlisberger said of losing for the first time since Dec. 4, 2005. "It's not a fun feeling. But hopefully, it's how you rebound."

Jacksonville faces defending division champion Indianapolis in Week 3. The Jags spent much of the offseason talking about closing the gap on the Colts and winning the division, and after their first two performances, they look ready to at least challenge for the spot.

The Jaguars spent the closing minutes celebrating their first Monday night win since 2001, improving to 7-2 in the league's most coveted time slot. It marked a new low for scoring on a Monday night, however, dipping below the San Francisco 49ers' 7-3 win over the New York Giants in 1990.

The Jaguars had plenty of bright spots anyway.

Leftwich completed 26 of 39 passes for 260 yards. Taylor, whose best game came against the Steelers in 2000, ran 22 times for 92 yards and caught three passes for 29 yards.

Reggie Williams and Matt Jones were even more impressive.

Williams caught eight passes for 95 yards, including a 48-yarder on a short crossing pass on third down. He beat Deshea Townsend, then juked Tyrone Carter to set up Scobee's second field goal.

Jones finished with six catches for 73 yards -- and each of his first five receptions resulted in first downs.

Roethlisberger, the youngest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl, completed 17 of 32 passes for 141 yards. It was Roethlisberger's first regular-season action since the scary offseason motorcycle accident that nearly cost him his life.

The Steelers star broke his nose, upper and lower jaw, eye socket bones, and got a concussion during his June 12 accident but recovered in time to report for training camp with the rest of the defending champions.

He sat out Pittsburgh's 28-17 season-opening victory over the Miami Dolphins after having the appendectomy Sept. 3.

Roethlisberger returned to see Pittsburgh shut out for the first time since December 2003 against the New York Jets.

"A loss is a loss," Roethlisberger said. "I don't care how you do it. You play as bad as I did, that's how you get shut out."


Pittsburgh's 26 yards rushing on 14 carries was the lowest in Bill Cowher's 15 years. The Steelers had no first downs rushing. ... The Jags have won 10 of their last 12 games dating to last season. ... The Jags had three players leave with injuries: DE Marcellus Wiley (groin), WR Chad Owens (ribs) and FB Derrick Wimbush (knee).

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