Monday, October 06, 2008
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Big Ben, Steelers end 4-game slide against Jaguars

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[October 06, 2008]  JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Big Ben's big night gave the Pittsburgh Steelers a big boost in the AFC North. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Steelers overcome their offensive woes and leading them to a 26-21 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday night.

Pittsburgh (4-1) snapped a four-game losing streak against Jacksonville and stretched its division lead over Baltimore (2-2), which lost to Tennessee earlier in the day.

HardwareRoethlisberger finished 26-of-41, rebounding from an interception on his third pass that Rashean Mathis returned 72 yards for a score. Roethlisberger's perfect 8-yard fade pass to Hines Ward in the corner of the end zone put the Steelers ahead 26-21 with 1:53 remaining.

Roethlisberger misfired on the 2-point conversion, but Pittsburgh's defense sealed the win by sacking David Garrard and then forcing two incomplete passes.

The Jaguars (2-3) blew a late lead for the fourth consecutive week. They rallied the last two games, getting winning field goals to beat Indianapolis and Houston.

No such luck this time around.

Roethlisberger and his teammates celebrated against Jacksonville for the first time since 2004.

The Jaguars won two close games in Pittsburgh last season, including a 31-29 victory in the first round of the playoffs, and were favored in this one mostly because of the Steelers' injury situation.

They played without running backs Willie Parker (knee) and Rashard Mendenhall (shoulder), guard Kendall Simmons (Achilles' tendon) and defensive linemen Casey Hampton (groin) and Brett Keisel (calf).


"We had a statement: 'The more you can do,' and we called on a lot of people to do that," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "Guys stepped outside their lines if you will and delivered, delivered big."

Because Roethlisberger had been sacked 16 times in the first four games, the Jaguars expected to have a big day against Big Ben.

It ended up being the other way around.

Roethlisberger picked apart Jacksonville's secondary, which played without starting safety Reggie Nelson and cornerback Drayton Florence. And even when the Jaguars looked like they were about to sack him, he made some clutch throws for first downs, none bigger than the 18-yarder to Hines Ward on third-and-8 that put the Steelers at the Jacksonville 13 and set up the go-ahead score.

"Guys are definitely upset," Garrard said. "We felt like we had it, but they went down and made some amazing plays. Ben had guys draped on his back and he gets a pass off 20 yards down the field. It's just amazing."

The Steelers rolled up 28 first downs and 415 yards, and probably would have won going away had it not been for the early interception and 10 penalties for 129 yards.

"It's something that simply has to be better," Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said, trying to explain his defense's second straight meltdown. "It's the difference between being good and not being good. If you can't get off the field on third down, you give yourself more exposure to all the things you want to avoid."

Houston's Matt Schaub torched the Jaguars for 307 yards passing and three scores last week. Del Rio vowed to get the lapses fixed.

Didn't happen.

Roethlisberger threw for 237 yards and two scores in the first half and directed scoring drives of 71, 59, 82 and 66 yards. Pittsburgh outgained Jacksonville 300 yards to 49 yards in the first half and had 17 more first downs.

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The Jaguars settled down after the break, holding the Steelers to no yards in two possessions and then took a 21-20 lead on the second play of the fourth when Garrard hit tight end Marcedes Lewis over the middle for a 24-yard score.

Jacksonville might have had a bigger lead, but Del Rio passed on a 51-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. Garrard's fourth-down pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage.

The one-point margin made it easier for Roethlisberger, who directed an 11-play, 80-yard drive in 4:40 to put the Steelers ahead for good.

Nate Washington caught six passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. Ward had seven receptions for 90 yards and a score.

Mewelde Moore, filling in for Parker, ran 17 times for 99 yards.

Heath Miller scored on 1-yard reception in the first quarter and Washington hauled in a 48-yarder that put Pittsburgh up 17-14 early in the second. Jeff Miller kicked field goals of 38 and 23 yards.

Garrard was 18-of-32 for 200 yards for Jacksonville, most of it to Mike Walker (6 catches, 107 yards). The Jags took a 14-7 lead early, but sputtered much of the night. They had more penalty yards (64) than offensive yards (49) at the half, and their running game was stymied for the fourth time in five games this season.

Fred Taylor led the team with 19 yards on 10 carries.

[Associated Press; By MARK LONG]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.





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