Los Angeles put a scare into Pittsburgh during Halloween week when the Rams returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown Monday night, but that just seemed to put the Steelers in the spirit of the season.
Bubby Brister passed for four touchdowns, including two to Merril Hoge, who also scored on a 1-yard run, to lead the Steelers to a 41-10 rout of the Rams.Brister completed 15 of 24 passes for 161 yards as the Steelers improved to 4-4 and climbed within a game of first-place Cincinnati in the AFC Central Division. The Rams, preseason favorites to reach the Super Bowl, fell to 2-5 in the NFC West.
Brister threw touchdown passes of 6 and 2 yards to Hoge, 17 to rookie Eric Green and 8 yards to Dwight Stone.
Gaston Green opened the game by returning the kickoff 100 yards for the Rams' only TD. Green took Gary Anderson's kickoff at the goal-line, ran up the middle, cut to his left and ran up the left sideline untouched into the end zone 16 seconds into the game to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.
"They knocked a few of our people down and Green ran very, very well," said Steeler Coach Chuck Noll. "It was just one of those things. I think that put us in the spirit of things though. It may have woken us up."
The Steelers tied the score 7-7 on their next possession on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brister to Hoge. Brister rolled to his right and hit Hoge on the 8-yard line, and he ran into the end zone at 5:05 of the first quarter.
"It was important for us to get down and get a touchdown to get the momentum back," said Brister.
"It was a great game plan. (Offensive coordinator Joe Walton) coached us very well, getting us ready to play."
Pittsburgh's David Johnson intercepted Jim Everett's pass and returned it down the left sideline 34 yards to the Ram 17 with 2:01 left in the first quarter. On the next play, Brister hit Eric Green in the left corner of the end zone with 1:56 remaining in the first quarter to give Pittsburgh a 14-7 lead. It was the first-round draft choice's sixth touchdown catch in 11 receptions.
"There was a penalty on the play and I knew it was coming back," Johnson said of his interception. "I thought I would gamble if they threw the out route. If it was a different route, it would have been a TD, but called back."
Lansford kicked a 32-yard field goal 45 seconds into the second quarter to cut the Pittsburgh lead to 14-10. The kick was set up by a 43-yard pass interference penalty against Thomas Everett on a pass from Jim Everett to Flipper Anderson that gave Los Angles a first down on the Steeler 23.
"That was a terrible football game for us," said Ram Coach John Robinson. "We made about every error you can make in a game. We committed obvious, numerous dropped fumbles and pass interceptions. We gave the ball to them deep in our territory a number of times.
"Pittsburgh is a good football team and they played good, but we are self-destructing in all phases of the game."
Anderson kicked a 42-yard field goal at 4:36 of the second quarter to boost Pittsburgh's lead to 17-10. Rod Woodson's 49-yard kickoff return to the Ram 39 set up the score.
The Steelers increased their lead to 20-10 on Anderson's 30-yard field goal on the first series of the third quarter. Woodson returned the kickoff 45 yards to the Ram 45 to set up Anderson's kick at 6:10.
"It was pretty obvious that we got our butts kicked pretty good by a pretty good football team," said Jim Everett. "We made them look a lot better, but they're a fine football team."
Hoge scored his second touchdown at 11:12 of the third quarter on a 1-yard run off right tackle. The Steelers took over the ball three plays earlier when punter Keith English was tackled by Stone at the Rams' 6.
"It's always fun when you are scoring touchdowns," said Hoge. "I felt a lot of emotion out there tonight. It was really fun.
"When things are going bad the offense always gets the blame. We've had a few injuries, but now we are gettting a few people back and getting better and better."
Brister completed his third touchdown pass of the game, an 8-yarder to Stone, seven seconds into the fourth quarter. Stone juggled the ball before falling into the end zone along the right sideline.
Brister threw his fourth TD pass and second to Hoge, a 2-yarder, with 2:42 left in the fourth quarter to increase Pittsburgh's lead to 41-10.