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Despite a rookie-like performance, Roethlisberger is still undefeated as a starter.


Published: Mon, November 22, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.


Despite a rookie-like performance, Roethlisberger is still undefeated as a starter.
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Jerome Bettis and Pittsburgh's defense made quite a posse.
Bettis ran for 129 yards and the Steelers' blitzing defense created havoc Sunday, setting up a 19-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that kept the NFL's longest winning streak growing.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played like a rookie, so the 32-year-old running back and the old-style defense bailed him out in Pittsburgh's eighth straight win. The Steelers are 9-1 for the first time since 1978, when they won their third Super Bowl in five years.
"Everybody expects us to be flawless," Bettis said. "Sometimes you're not going to have your best game. That's when you have to find a way to win."
They took an old, familiar path: run the ball and let the defense do the rest, taking the pressure off the kid quarterback.
Like a rookie
Roethlisberger has earned comparisons to Terry Bradshaw during his remarkable introductory season with eight starts, all wins. This time, he looked much more like a green rookie than black-and-gold legend.
The Bengals (4-6) came at him from all sides, had a season-high seven sacks and forced him to make poor decisions. Three times, he scuttled scoring chances by taking sacks, grounding the ball or fumbling.
"On a lot of the sacks, I take the blame," said Roethlisberger, who was 15-of-21 for 138 yards, but lost 54 yards on sacks. "I wasn't flustered, just disappointed in my play."
With Duce Staley sidelined a third straight game because of a sore hamstring, Bettis came through with his third straight triple-digit game. He repeatedly bowled over tacklers during his 11th 100-yard performance against the Bengals, and he moved ahead of Tony Dorsett for fifth place on the NFL's career rushing list.
Bettis decided to stay in Pittsburgh as a backup, opening the season as a designated goal-line runner. On Sunday, he was the whole show -- one opponents have seen many times before.
"It reminds me of Steeler football, the way we've played since I've been here," said Bettis, in his ninth season with Pittsburgh. "That's important. We've got to remain ourselves. We've got an identity and we've got to stick to it."
After Roethlisberger put the Steelers up 17-14 with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Dan Kreider in the third quarter, the defense did the rest, stifling Carson Palmer's passing and Cincinnati's playoff hopes.
Linebacker James Farrior had a 14-yard interception return that blunted the Bengals' momentum in the first half.
Implosion
In the second half, Cincinnati's offense managed only 42 yards and two first downs. Everything imploded: Cincinnati had seven second-half penalties for 75 yards.
The clinching play came with 2:38 to go and Palmer under heavy pressure in his end zone. He threw the ball away, drawing a grounding call and a safety.
"This is the angriest I've been," said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who always tries to accentuate the positive. "We're not going to accept mediocrity. If we accept getting close, if we accept leading in the first half, we're not going to get any better. We're not going to accept that."
With Pittsburgh out of sync in the first half, the Bengals did a little dancing.
Chad Johnson made good on his promise of a new touchdown celebration, an end zone boogie after his acrobatic 36-yard catch.
Kelley Washington also swayed and squirmed in the end zone after his 19-yard touchdown put Cincinnati up 14-10.
In no time, the dancing ended and Lewis' screaming began.
"Everybody feels like that," said Palmer, who was 13-of-25 for 165 yards.
"Everybody's frustrated. It makes everybody feel the way Marvin feels. Everybody knows he's right."


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