Skip to main content

They're hurting all around, yet Steelers are off to 4-1 start

PITTSBURGH -- Luckily for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they didn't get any more receivers hurt while playing Seattle. If so, coach Mike Tomlin -- the former William & Mary receiver -- might have had to activate himself.

With four key starters out of the lineup on Sunday, the Steelers (4-1) really did have to rely on the most hackneyed of coaching cliches: the team effort. The surprise was the team they fielded while winning 21-0 very much resembled that which won each of its first three games by a three-touchdown margin.

"They don't put asterisks besides wins and losses," Tomlin said after the Steelers bounced back from their only loss, 21-14 at Arizona the week before. "Regardless of who is playing, we are the Pittsburgh Steelers."

Even if they're the backup Steelers, with Nate Washington and Cedrick Wilson at wide receiver rather than Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes, and Anthony Smith and Chris Hoke on defense instead of Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton.

When Holmes went down in pregame warmups with a hamstring injury, the Seahawks admittedly thought they had a chance to leave Pittsburgh with a rare victory at Heinz Field by an NFC team -- the Steelers have won 14 of their last 16 interconference games, including their last nine at home.

But not only did the Steelers throw and run effectively, they so controlled the clock that Seattle had the ball only about five minutes in the second half.

"I'm sure it became obvious to them quickly that we had only three wideouts suited," Tomlin said, referring to Washington, Wilson and Willie Reid. "We had to pound the rock and, eventually, because the guys stayed together and stuck to the plan, they broke through."

Even without his top receivers, Ben Roethlisberger completed his final 13 passes -- two short of the team record set by Bubby Brister in 1989.

"Today was one of those things where I took it upon my shoulders to say, `I've got to be able to count on those guys,'" Roethlisberger said. "That's the biggest thing. They have confidence in me and I have confidence in them, and we found a way to get it done."

Nobody suggested the Steelers' defense was better without Polamalu and Hampton, their only Pro Bowl defensive players last season, but defensive end Brett Keisel said their absence created a bit of adjustment for Seattle.

The Seahawks appeared to expect the usual heavy load of Steelers' blitzes, but Keisel said the pass rush quarterback Matt Hasselbeck saw often numbered only three players.

"I think that confused them a lot," Keisel said.

The Steelers get to sit on this victory and only their third 4-1 start since 1982 until they play at Denver (2-3) on Oct. 21. They also were 4-1 under coach Bill Cowher in 2004 (they finished 15-1) and 1996 (10-6).

This was supposed to begin the rugged stretch of their schedule. But, because teams such as the Broncos and Bengals (1-3) aren't playing as well as expected, the Steelers -- barring any major breakdown -- likely will be favored in seven consecutive games until they play at New England on Dec. 9.

After Denver, they play at Cincinnati, then get AFC North rivals Baltimore and Cleveland at home. After playing at the Jets on Nov. 18, they take on Miami and Cincinnati at home.

They will have a short work week, although Tomlin said, "We're not a finished product. We are trying to get better."

The Steelers will practice on Tuesday, normally a day off, plus Wednesday and Thursday, but are scheduled to get the weekend off. They'll begin preparing for Denver next Monday.

"You know, we can't blink," tight end Heath Miller said. "As a team, we know what's going to happen throughout the season. It's inevitable. It's going to happen to all 32 teams in the NFL. You can't blink an eye. But we've got guys who can step in and get the job done. So you just keep moving forward."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.