Different setting, very familiar scene.
The Steelers got back to their black-and-gold basics Sunday, running the ball when they wanted and turning Porter loose during a 17-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
“It was good to see us kind of re-establish a little bit of our tradition,” coach Bill Cowher said. “That’s like the days of old.”
Tens of thousands of Pittsburgh fans were in the crowd of 64,596—the largest ever to see the Bengals play in Cincinnati—and stayed on their feet as the Steelers (2-1) went back to grinding it out.
Bettis, relegated to a backup role in preseason, showed that The Bus still has a few miles left. When Zereoue needed a rest late in the third quarter, Bettis took over and led the Steelers to a decisive touchdown through brute force.
Toppling tacklers as he went, Bettis ran six plays in a row for 23 yards, putting Pittsburgh ahead 14-3. He lowered his head and powered into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1.
“You get frustrated,” said Bettis, who had 59 yards in 16 carries. “As a running back, you want the opportunity to make a difference in the game. It’s tough. When you have two running backs who want the football, it’s going to be difficult.”
Cowher ran onto the field and smacked Bettis on the left shoulder pad after the touchdown, a sign of his delight over a running game that was rediscovered.
So was Porter, who suffered gunshot wounds to the buttocks and right thigh three weeks earlier. He made an immediate impact on a defense that kept the Bengals (0-3) in check until the closing minutes.
The Steelers co-captain came out for the pregame coin toss and correctly called heads. Porter, the Steelers’ top defensive player last season, also had one of four sacks of Jon Kitna.
Porter broke through the line, grabbed the back of Kitna’s jersey and pulled him down in the third quarter, thwarting another Bengals possession.
“It seemed like it was a long time coming,” Porter said. “I was ready to go, and the adrenaline was going to get me through just about anything. That felt like Christmas felt when I was 11 years old.”
Cincinnati was lost without running back Corey Dillon, who strained his groin in the second quarter and didn’t return. Kitna was 16-of-24 for 157 yards with one interception and a late touchdown pass.
As first-year coach Marvin Lewis watched helplessly from the sideline, the Bengals fell to 0-3 for the seventh time in the last 13 years, which marks their reign as the NFL’s worst team.
“Nothing is surprising,” Lewis said. “We didn’t want to be 0-3. We’ve played three teams that we knew were going to be pretty good, so there was a chance that it was going to happen.”
Since Cowher took over as coach in 1992, the Steelers have rushed for more yards than any other team. They didn’t do much after Bettis was benched in the preseason for Zereoue, who had 58 yards through three quarters Sunday.
When Zereoue came to the sideline to catch his breath, Bettis took over.
“When Jerome gets going, it’s pretty hard to stop him,” said Zereoue, who finished with 69 yards on 16 carries. “I thought, hey, he’s getting it done. Coach Cowher and I both decided to let him go.”
Bettis, who had only 21 yards in the first two games, topped that total on his first six carries. He also did the tough work as the Steelers ran out the clock after Kitna’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Peter Warrick cut it to 17-10 with5:54 left.
Maddox was 21-of-34 for 240 yards, including a 23-yard pass to Jerame Tuman on a fake field goal that set up Pittsburgh’s first touchdown. … Steelers CB Chidi Iwuoma left in the second half with a mild concussion. … Dillon was listed as day-to-day. TE Matt Schobel pulled his left hamstring and didn’t play in the second half. … WR Chad Johnson was on the sideline for the first three plays, punishment from Lewis for violating a team rule. Johnson hadfour catches for 77 yards.