His 77-yard touchdown return of Brett Favre 's fumble set the stage for Pittsburgh's 20-10 win over the Green Bay Packers, when both teams turned to their stingy defenses to bail out their injury-ravaged offenses.
"I thought our defense played outstanding," Favre said. "We have to help them out."
Green Bay held the Steelers without a single third-down conversion, allowed just two field goals and a 20-yard TD drive.
Not bad, but not as good as Pittsburgh.
The Steelers forced three turnovers that they turned into 17 points, including Polamalu's score on a play in which Favre was kicking himself for not just going to his hot read right away and settling for a field goal instead of trying to buy enough time for Walt Williams to get open for a touchdown.
Polamalu was kicking himself, too -- but only for a split second.
"I missed the sack, which is pretty disappointing," Polamalu said. "Bryant McFadden made a great play. And fortunately enough, he had the sack and the fumble. I just saw the ball lying there and picked it up and ran."
The Steelers (6-2) became the first team since the 1989-90 San Francisco 49ers and the fourth team overall to win 11 straight road games. And they did it without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (knee) and running back Jerome Bettis (thigh), who were joined on the sideline in the second half by starting tailback Willie Parker, who turned his left ankle.
Duce Staley, who replaced Bettis and had his first carries since the AFC championship in January, ran for 76 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
They've been in every game until the closing minutes and have actually outscored their opponents 168-159 -- a first for an NFL team that lost seven of its first eight.
"If we were getting stomped and crushed every time we played somebody, it probably would be hard to be optimistic," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "But we're right there. We're a play away, an inch away. And it is frustrating that we're not getting that inch or we're not getting that play."
Polamalu's TD return came in the first half, when Green Bay trailed 6-3 and was about to forge ahead thanks to his 33-yard pass interference penalty that put the Packers on the Pittsburgh 3.
Consecutive false starts backed up the Packers to the 12, when they went to an empty backfield on third-and-goal.
McFadden came on a cornerback blitz and wrapped up Favre for an 11-yard sack, spinning him to the ground and forcing the ball to pop out. Polamalu scooped it up and rumbled 77 yards for the big swing.
McFadden wasn't just satisfied with his first NFL sack on the play. He also provided the block on speedy tight end Donald Lee that allowed Polamalu to reach the end zone, something Pittsburgh's offense failed to do until it got the short field thanks to Tyrone Carter's interception in the fourth quarter.
Carter grabbed his fourth career interception when the ball bounced off Donald Driver and into his hands at the Packers' 20 with 8:11 left and Pittsburgh clinging to a 13-10 lead.
Four plays later, Staley slipped a backfield tackle by Barnett and trotted in from 3 yards out.
"I'm going to put it on my shoulders," Driver said. "If I make that catch we win the game."
Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch made his first start since Dec. 2, 2001, when he was with Detroit. He completed 9 of 16 passes for 65 yards and one interception.
Pittsburgh settled for short field goals by Jeff Reed to take a 6-0 lead, which Ryan Longwell cut in half with a 40-yarder that made him the first Green Bay player to score 1,000 points in his career.
Longwell, however, was wide right from 31 yards after a promising 18-play drive by Green Bay that ate up 9 1/2 minutes but stalled at the 13.
The Packers finally punched it in when Samkon Gado scored his first career touchdown from a yard out with 7:26 left in the third quarter, cutting Pittsburgh's lead to 13-10.
"I know I can play at this level, but I'm not happy with the way I got my chance, said Gado, whose 62 yards on 26 carries were a season high for the Packers.