PITTSBURGH (Oct. 16, 2005) -- Between the formation and Tommy Maddox's eyes, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis knew the ball was coming his way.
"I think we showed we're one of the toughest teams in the league," Mathis said. "This is huge. This is a statement game around the league about us."
The Steelers (3-2), losing their second straight at home but only their third overall in 21 regular-season games, were in position to win it following Morgan's 71-yard kickoff return to start the overtime. But Maddox fumbled the ball away at the 27 with Jeff Reed readying to attempt a game-winning field goal on the next play.
"We've got a saying around here: 'Don't blink because you never know what's going to happen,' " Mathis said. "We didn't blink, we stopped them and then a big play happened for us."
Maddox, starting for the injured Roethlisberger, suffered three interceptions while going 11-for-28 for 154 yards in his second start in 13 months.
"They ran the same route on the same formation before, so I knew what I was getting," Mathis said.
The Jaguars (4-2) took away the pass and a Steelers running game that was largely responsible for a 24-22 victory Oct. 10 in San Diego, limiting Pittsburgh to 73 yards and a 2.4 average. Jerome Bettis, who came off the bench for 54 yards and a touchdown last week, had 4 yards on four carries and Willie Parker was held to 55 yards on 21 carries.
Maddox, booed for much of the game, was intercepted twice on Pittsburgh's first three possessions, and the Jaguars turned the second pickoff into Greg Jones' 7-yard TD run and a 7-0 lead. Jones ran for 77 yards while subbing for the injured Fred Taylor (ankle).
Steelers coach Bill Cowher considered pulling Maddox for Charlie Batch, but didn't because Batch has played only a handful of downs since 2001. Asked if Maddox had a bad day, Cowher said, "I think that's an obvious statement."
Maddox disputed that, saying wind gusts of 25 mph disrupted the throws of both quarterbacks. Jacksonville's Byron Leftwich was 19-for-35 for 177 yards and was intercepted in the end zone in the final minute of regulation, which prevented a possible game-winning field goal try.
The Jaguars felt they should have won it before overtime. They passed up three sure points when coach Jack Del Rio chose to go for it on a fourth-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 22 and Jones lost a yard. Fullback Derrick Wimbush dropped an apparent touchdown pass while wide open. And the Jaguars settled for a Josh Scobee 23-yard field goal to end the first half after having a first-and-goal at the Steelers 1.
Ward (hamstring) had played in 116 consecutive games since his rookie season.
Until this game, no Steelers passes had been intercepted all season.
The Jaguars had lost their previous three games against the Steelers, but have won three of four in Pittsburgh.
Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith made three catches, moving into a 10th-place tie with Shannon Sharpe for career catches with 815.
The Steelers' Chris Gardocki's 9-yard punt in the second quarter was deflected by Mathis. Because the punt traveled beyond the line of scrimmage, it does not affect Gardocki's streak of 1,066 punts without a block.
The Steelers have lost three of their past four at home, counting losses to New England in the AFC title game in January and again on Sept. 25.
Steelers CB Deshea Townsend (hamstring) left in the first half and did not return. Bryant McFadden replaced him and made his first career interception.
The Associated Press News Service
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