The Pittsburgh Steelers are 3-1, yet they realize how much worse it could be. The Seattle Seahawks are 3-1, yet they realize how much better it could be.
Jerome Bettis, forgotten last week in one of Pittsburgh's worst losses under Bill Cowher, got the Steelers back to what they do best by running for 138 yards in a defense-dominated 13-10 victory Sunday over the Seattle Seahawks.Seattle, one of the NFL's surprise teams, couldn't overcome Bettis' big day, four turnovers or a suddenly ineffective running game as they were denied the first 4-0 start in franchise history.
Cowher stuck to his promise to get the ball more to Bettis, and the Steelers re-emphasized their strengths - a big running back and a big-play defense - even as quarterback Kordell Stewart had another off day.
"We found our identity again," said linebacker Levon Kirkland, who helped limit the AFC's top-rated rushing offense to 61 yards - and just 47 by Ricky Watters. "We played tough, physical defense and we pounded the ball. We played like a Pittsburgh team is supposed to play."
But the Seahawks didn't lack opportunities, twice getting the ball back in the final seven minutes with a chance to tie or win.
Todd Peterson missed a potential tying 52-yard field goal into a swirling wind following a high snap with 4:38 left. And 41-year-old Warren Moon, who made his first start against Pittsburgh 14 years ago, overthrew an open Joey Galloway twice on deep passes.
"It was ferocious," Watters said of the Steelers' defense. "You could tell right away they were fired up. They were telling me, `You're not getting anything today.' They had all those blitzes. They were coming off the corner. They were coming up the middle. They were coming from everywhere."
Moon, throwing consistently under a heavy rush, was 14-of-27 for 183 yards with his first interception in four games. Galloway had seven catches for 139 yards.
The Seahawks countered by pressuring Stewart, who was sacked two times and was ineffective for the fourth game in a row, throwing for just 108 yards. But, unlike Pittsburgh's defense, they couldn't force a game-altering turnover or make a momentum-shifting play.
Cowher was so upset with his offense - and, it seemed, the play-calling - in a 21-0 loss to Miami last week that he ordered offensive coordinator Ray Sherman to open up the offense more and get the ball to Bettis.
Sherman, the former Vikings quarterbacks coach who took over Pittsburgh's offense from Cowboys coach Chan Gailey, even apologized to Bettis, who was twice held to fewer than 50 yards in the first three games.
Former Utah running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala scored one TD for the Steelers on his only carry of the game.