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Steelers Steelers Report: 10/2/00

Monday, October 02, 2000

By Ed Bouchette and Ron Cook, Post-Gazette Sports Writers

LOOKING AHEAD

The Steelers take their one-game winning streak to Giants Stadium -- the first of two visits there this season -- to face the unbeaten New York Jets. The Steelers lead the all-time series, 12-1.

WHO'S HURTING

Mark Bruener, Steelers TE, sustained a mild concussion after catching a 5-yard pass in the first half. He did not return.

Hardy Nickerson, Jaguars LB, sustained a pulled hamstring in the second quarter and did not return.

NEWS & NOTES

Aaron Smith, starting at defensive end, had the first two sacks of his two-year NFL career. On one, all he had to do was touch Mark Brunell after he fell down. LB Joey Porter also got his first sack of the season without touching Brunell when the quarterback was chased out of bounds. LB Jason Gildon had two sacks to give him three in two games. Deshea Townsend also had a sack on a corner blitz.

Their seven sacks not only tie the most the Jaguars have allowed, but they came after they had just two in their first three games.

"We talked about it during the week," Smith said. "We figured we needed to help the defensive backs out more. We did a nice job on the run and that forced them to pass."

S Lee Flowers told CB Dewayne Washington that it made a difference.

"I was telling Dewayne today, if we get that kind of rush every week, man," Flowers said. "Our defensive line stepped up today, our linebackers stepped up today."

The Jaguars lost at home for only the fifth time in their past 35 games at Alltel Stadium.

"Jacksonville is one of the top teams in the league, one of the teams that I guess is the measure stick," LB Levon Kirkland said. "To play well and beat them in their stadium is tremendous for us."

After too many big-yardage plays against them in the first three games, the Steelers did not allow one of 20 yards yesterday.

Keenan McCardell and Kyle Brady each caught passes of 19 yards for the Jaguars' longest plays of the day.

"The biggest thing to me as I look at this game is that you didn't see the big play," Coach Bill Cowher said. "We were able to take away the big play ... We didn't have the 40- or 50-yard gain and that was the only difference, because we've been playing pretty solid defense outside of those plays."

The Steelers' victory gives them some kind of proof that what they've been saying all along might be true -- that they are better than their 0-3 record indicated.

They lost their past two games by three points apiece after losing, 16-0, to Baltimore to open the season.

"This is out team right here," Flowers said. "If you look at the Baltimore game, we were still trying to find ourselves. In Cleveland, we stepped up a little bit better.

"Against Tennessee, that was the Steeler team, but we gave up a big play at the end of the game. Today, we finally started believing in ourselves and playing with emotion."

Said Cowher: "It's been tough opening 0-3. The tough thing is the way we've lost the last two weeks. Those can be very trying for a football team."

Although he lost his starting job to Hines Ward, Troy Edwards played often yesterday when the Steelers used two wide receivers, teaming with Plaxico Burress.

The Jaguars, who won the AFC Central Division title the past two years and went to the playoffs the past four, find themselves in a strange position this morning: below .500 at 2-3. The last time they were below .500 was December 1996, when they were 6-7. They went 58 consecutive games at or above .500 and had the NFL's longest current streak.

"We're not a very good football team right now," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "We're not doing much that I can relate to."

The Jaguars, who lost to Indianapolis, 43-14, last Monday night, must play the Baltimore Ravens -- the first-place team in the AFC Central at 4-1 -- at home Sunday night.

"The whole country is going to be watching," QB Mark Brunell said. "We have to figure out what is wrong and fix it. Certainly, we have the talent. We have the guys who can play. We've proven it time and time again. But we certainly have to find a way to get this thing back on track."

Two statistics jumped out at Coughlin: The Steelers ran for 209 yards, including 97 on 28 carries by Jerome Bettis, and the Jaguars ran for a franchise-low 26 yards, including 24 on 15 carries by Fred Taylor. The Jaguars had only one rushing first down. "I wanted to run it and stop the run. We didn't do either," Coughlin said. "What's surprising is that we're being out-physicaled to the point that we are."

Even though the Jaguars did not list LB Lonnie Marts on their injury list, they scratched him from yesterday's game. That caused the Jaguars to move middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson to Marts' spot at strongside linebacker and start T.J. Slaughter at middle linebacker.

The Steelers deactivated DE Chris Combs, WR Malcolm Johnson, RB Richard Huntley and made Kent Graham the emergency, No. 3 QB.

NUMBERS

The Steelers have now won 14 games since the start of the 1998 season and QB Kordell Stewart has been the starting quarterback in 13 of those. His nine runs from scrimmage yesterday were two shy of his career high, against Seattle in 1998.

The Steelers' three touchdowns yesterday were three more than they had scored in their previous three games against Jacksonville.

Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith extended his streak with at least one catch to 77 games, but it wasn't easy. He didn't make his first catch until late in the third quarter when he grabbed an 8-yard pass in front of Steelers CB Dewayne Washington. His only other catch -- for 12 yards -- came on the Jaguars' final possession.

Jaguars WR Keenan McCardell caught 11 passes for 137 yards. That was his third 100-yard receiving game of the season and his 16th in his career.

Steelers rookie CB Hank Poteat returned one punt for 31 yards yesterday and now has three punt returns for 74 yards.

FOURTH-AND-SHORT

As Plaxico Burress emerged from the shower in Alltel Stadium yesterday, some of his fellow wide receivers were covering him with insults.

"Y'all write that Plaxico is dumb as hell," Hines Ward said.

No one, including Burress, was about to disagree after the most famous spike in Steelers' history since Dave Smith's in 1971.

Back then, Smith held the ball triumphantly in the air at the 5 after a long reception. The ball, though, slipped out of his hands just before he crossed the goal line, rolled through the back and was ruled a fumble and a touchback in Kansas City.

It wasn't really a spike. Yesterday's was.

Burress fell after he caught a 19-yard pass from Kordell Stewart at the Jacksonville 29. No one touched him, so he could have gotten up and continued to run. Instead, he got up and slammed the ball into the ground in triumph. It popped into the air, linebacker Danny Clark caught it and ran 44 yards with it.

The Jaguars did not score, and Burress thankfully congratulated the defense as it walked off the field.

"They're riding me pretty good right now," Burress said as he toweled off. "I'm the laughing stock of the team right now. I'm just glad it didn't cost us the game."

His receivers had more reasons to pile it on yesterday.

"The receivers are already mad he didn't bring breakfast this week," safety Lee Flowers said, "so he's just adding gas to the fire right now."

Burress also was partially at fault on Stewart's only interception. Stewart hit Burress in the hands with a pass, but cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas stripped him of the ball and cornerback Fernando Bryant picked it off.

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