Steelers squeeze past Dolphins; defending Super Bowl champs next

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The Steelers pulled off a miracle 23-22 win over the Miami Dolphins Sunday to stay in a three-way tie for the best record in the NFL—5-1—and now must get ready for the struggling Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints who are coming off an upset 30-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns.

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UNSTOPPABLE—Miami Dolphins’ Benny Sapp (27) tries to stop Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward (86) from catching a pass during the first half in Miami, Oct. 24. (AP PhotoWilfredo Lee)

Both teams shut down the run and were able to control the air attack. Rashard Mendenhall was held to just 37 yards on 15 carries while the two-headed running attack of the Dolphins did not do much better. Ricky Williams had 48 yards on 11 carries and Ronnie Brown had only 14 yards on 9 carries.

After giving Miami 6 points at the beginning of the game with two turnovers, the Steelers finally got down to business and jumped off to a sizable lead before the Dolphins came roaring back behind the ever improving young quarterback Chad Henne who was 23 of 36 for 257 yards and one touchdown. After a solid game in the red zone last week, the Steelers fell back into their old ways of settling for three Jeff Reed field goals instead of touchdowns.

Once again, as they did much of last season, the Steelers marched down the field during the final minutes of the game to pull what was a sure defeat into a victory.

With Pittsburgh trailing 20-19 and facing third-and-goal at the Miami 2, Roethlisberger fumbled the ball as he dove across the goal line on a quarterback draw. The play was ruled a touchdown as both teams scrambled for the loose ball in the end zone. After a replay review, referee announced that Roethlisberger had fumbled before scoring. But the official said his crew had no clear evidence as to which team recovered the ball, so the Steelers were awarded possession at the half-yard line. Jeff Reed then made an 18-yard kick on the next play with 2:30 left, and the Steelers escaped with the win.

Roethlisberger had a decent game, going 19 for 27 for 302 yards and two touchdowns, but three fumbles—two that were just dumb, instead of just taking the sack—almost gave the game to the Dolphins. Hines Ward had an outstanding game catching 7 passes for 131 yards which included a 21-yard touchdown pass, but for some reason after Wallace ran past all defenders for a 53-yard touchdown to give the Steelers the early lead, Roethlisberger only went back to him once for no gain.

* * *

In New Orleans, David Bowen returned two of Drew Brees’ four interceptions for touchdowns, and the Browns stunned the defending Super Bowl champions 30-17.

Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy passed for just 74 yards, but got his first win as an NFL starter, a desperately needed one for the struggling Browns (2-5). Scott Fujita and Sheldon Brown also had interceptions for the Browns. Brees was sacked three times, once by Fujita, who was a defensive leader for the Saints last season.

The Saints (4-3) trailed all game and pulled no closer in the second half than 20-10.

Still without Reggie Bush, who’s out with an injury, Brees put the ball up 55 times, completing 37 passes for 356 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn’t enough to overcome four interceptions. The Browns, with a very solid defense, held the Saints running game in check. Chris Ivory had only 48 yards on 15 carries.

The Steelers defense, who struggled a little against the Dolphins’ passing attack, will have some serious problems trying to contain Marques Colston, who had 10 catches for 112 yards and Ladell Betts with 8 catches for 88 yards.

Brees, who was intercepted 11 times last season, has thrown 10 picks in 2010.

“Whenever you throw a pick, you’re going to be upset. …Four interceptions are hard to swallow,” Brees said. “I think we are all doing a little soul searching. We know how good we can be. Obviously, we aren’t playing that way right now.”

The Saints outgained Cleveland 394-210, but the Browns made big plays on defense and special teams in building a 20-3 halftime lead that had the crowd booing the defending Super Bowl champions as they went to the locker room.

The Steelers will have to face one of the most potent passing attacks in the game without defensive end Aaron Smith, who may be out for the season with an injury. Smith missed 11 games last season.

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