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Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Big win hurts so good for Steelers


 
 James Lang/US Presswire
 Ben Roethlisberger rushed for a touchdown in Pittsburgh's 23-6 victory over Washington, then left with a shoulder injury.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

LANDOVER, Md. -- Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger stood in a tunnel in FedEx Field laughing and talking to a small group of people on Monday night.

There was no sling on his injured right shoulder, and no grimace on his face after suffering an ailment that kept him out of half of Monday's game.

Even through aches and pains, big victories can serve as the perfect elixir.

Roethlisberger was knocked out of the game, but Pittsburgh still pulled off a convincing 23-6 road victory over the Washington Redskins for its most significant statement game of the season. Although there were no definitive answers on Roethlisberger's injury -- he didn't talk to the media following the game -- there was a sense from the Steelers that it wasn't serious.

"I'll have more information for you guys tomorrow," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said. "Potentially he was capable of going back into the game. But we went down the field with [Byron] Leftwich in the second half."

Although Roethlisberger's situation didn't appear serious, it still leaves the question of whether he will miss time, even if it's just for one game. Still, that shouldn't overshadow Pittsburgh taking its biggest win of the season.

Here is what else we learned from Pittsburgh's win:

Byron Leftwich is ready, if needed
The Steelers have survived injuries to key players all season. But their biggest fear was having to do without their starting quarterback.

Leftwich eased some of those fears Monday with a solid second-half performance. His first completion was a 50-yard bomb to receiver Nate Washington to open the second half and set up a touchdown. He finished with 129 yards, a touchdown and a 145.8 passer rating just miles away from his hometown of Washington, D.C.

"That wasn't a difficult situation for me to go out there, and get in the huddle and be on the football field," Leftwich said. "The difficult situation for me is being on the sideline. I've been playing football too long to ever get nervous on the football field."

Pittsburgh's 6-2 record also could convince the team to rest Roethlisberger. If it's a borderline injury, the team's record, combined with Leftwich's performance, could factor in Pittsburgh's decision-making.

Parker and Holmes make a big difference
This is the first time in more than a month that Pittsburgh has played with both starting tailback Willie Parker and receiver Santonio Holmes in the lineup. The added threats make a difference.

In a defensive struggle, Parker rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown. He had several shifty runs and took several hard hits without suffering any setbacks to his knee.

"I definitely feel good, but I'm still not where I want to be or where I need to be," Parker said. "I've got to keep grinding."

Parker smiled when asked about having Holmes on the field. The receiver was suspended for the Week 8 game against the New York Giants, but returned against Washington to have three catches for 30 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to seal the game. The Steelers improved to 3-1 this year when both Parker and Holmes are starting.

"This team can be great," Parker said. "We call each other 'Prime Time.' I'm 'Prime' and he's 'Time.' So we always look to each other, and when we're both in the lineup we can go a long ways."

Steelers' defense is unrelenting
Pittsburgh's top-rated defense has bullied teams for most of this season. But its lopsided performance against a Redskins team with Clinton Portis, the league's leading rusher, and quarterback Jason Campbell was perhaps its most impressive.

Washington (6-3) scored the first six points of the game but went scoreless for the final three-plus quarters.

Portis was held to 51 yards on 13 carries (a 3.9-yard average). Campbell threw his first two interceptions of the season and was sacked seven times. By the end of the game, the Steelers proved to be the first team that was able to rattle Campbell.

"When you start bringing pressure and you're hitting that quarterback, you definitely don't want to hold onto the ball that long," Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley (two sacks) said. "Once we started getting back there a little bit, he gave us the ball."

Playing from behind in the second half, Washington became one-dimensional. Campbell (208 passing yards) was forced to throw 43 times. That played right into the Steelers' hands as six different players sacked Campbell.

"It's fun when we know what a team has to do," Steelers linebacker James Farrior said. "That's when we let the dogs loose."