Steelers 20, Packers 10

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP)—Troy Polamalu called himself an accidental hero.

His 77-yard touchdown return of Brett Favre’s fumble set the stage for Pittsburgh’s 20-10 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, when both teams turned to their stingy defenses to bail out their injury-ravaged offenses.

“I thought our defense played outstanding,” said Favre, whose streak of 27 straight home games with a touchdown pass came to an end. “We have to help them out.”

Green Bay held the Steelers without a single third-down conversion, allowed just two field goals and a 20-yard TD drive.

Not bad, but not as good as Pittsburgh.

The Steelers forced three turnovers that they turned into 17 points, including Polamalu’s score on a play in which Favre was kicking himself for not just going to his hot read right away and settling for a field goal instead of trying to buy enough time for Walt Williams to get open for a touchdown.

Polamalu was kicking himself, too—but only for a split second.

“I missed the sack, which is pretty disappointing,” Polamalu said. “Bryant McFadden made a great play. And fortunately enough, he had the sack and the fumble. I just saw the ball lying there and picked it up ran.”

The Steelers (6-2) became the first team since the 1989-90 San Francisco 49ers and the fourth team overall to win 11 straight road games. And they did it without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (knee) and running back Jerome Bettis (thigh), who were joined on the sideline in the second half by starting tailback Willie Parker, who turned his left ankle.

Duce Staley, who replaced Bettis and had his first carries since the AFC championship in January, ran for 76 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

The Packers fell to 1-7 at the halfway point for the first time since 1986 under Forrest Gregg.

They’ve been in every game until the closing minutes and have actually outscored their opponents 168-159—a first for an NFL team that lost seven of its first eight.

“If we were getting stomped and crushed every time we played somebody, it probably would be hard to be optimistic,” linebacker Nick Barnett said. “But we’re right there. We’re a play away, an inch away. And it is frustrating that we’re not getting that inch or we’re not getting that play.”

Polamalu’s TD return came in the first half, when Green Bay trailed 6-3 and was about to forge ahead thanks to his 33-yard pass interference penalty that put the Packers on the Pittsburgh 3.

Consecutive false starts backed up the Packers to the 12, when they went to an empty backfield on third-and-goal.

Big mistake.

McFadden came on a cornerback blitz and wrapped up Favre for an 11-yard sack, spinning him to the ground and forcing the ball to pop out. Polamalu scooped it up and rumbled 77 yards for the big swing.

“You can put that one on me, that was my call,” Packers coach Mike Sherman said.

McFadden wasn’t just satisfied with his first NFL sack on the play. He also provided the block on speedy tight end Donald Lee that allowed Polamalu to reach the end zone, something Pittsburgh’s offense failed to do until it got the short field thanks to Tyrone Carter’s interception in the fourth quarter.

Carter grabbed his fourth career interception when the ball bounced off Donald Driver and into his hands at the Packers’ 20 with 8:11 left and Pittsburgh clinging to a 13-10 lead.

Four plays later, Staley slipped a backfield tackle by Barnett and trotted in from 3 yards out.

“I’m going to put it on my shoulders,” Driver said. “If I make that catch we win the game.”

Steelers backup quarterback Charlie Batch made his first start since Dec. 2, 2001, when he was with Detroit. He completed 9 of 16 passes for 65 yards and one interception.

Pittsburgh settled for short field goals by Jeff Reed to take a 6-0 lead, which Ryan Longwell cut in half with a 40-yarder that made him the first Green Bay player to score 1,000 points in his career.

Longwell, however, was wide right from 31 yards after a promising 18-play drive by Green Bay that ate up 9 1/2 minutes but stalled at the 13.

The Packers finally punched it in when Samkon Gado scored his first career touchdown from a yard out with 7:26 left in the third quarter, cutting Pittsburgh’s lead to 13-10.

“I know I can play at this level, but I’m not happy with the way I got my chance, said Gado, whose 62 yards on 26 carries were a season high for the Packers.

Notes

The Packers were down to their fifth-string running back after Tony Fisher (fractured rib) was deactivated and ReShard Lee fumbled away on his second carry Sunday. … WR Hines Ward caught just one pass, leaving him three shy of passing John Stallworth (536) for most in Steelers history.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Pittsburgh
D. Staley D. Staley RB
15 Rush, 76 yds
1 TD
 Green Bay
S. Gado S. Gado RB
26 Rush, 62 yds
1 TD

Team Stat Leaders

Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Receiving Yards

Scoreboard

Preseason
  Thursday, Sep 1  
  Atlanta
Miami 20
17 Final
     
  Houston
Tampa Bay 14
38 Final
     
  NY Jets
Philadelphia 37
14 Final
     
  Washington
Baltimore 20
26 Final
OT
     
  Pittsburgh
Carolina 21
17 Final
     
  Cleveland
Chicago 16
6 Final
     
  Jacksonville
Dallas 20
27 Final
     
  Green Bay
Tennessee 21
17 Final
     
  NY Giants
New England 27
3 Final
     
  New Orleans
Oakland 6
13 Final
     
  San Francisco
San Diego 24
28 Final
      Friday, Sep 2  
  Detroit
Buffalo 21
7 Final
     
  Indianapolis
Cincinnati 0
38 Final
     
  Kansas City
St. Louis 23
27 Final
     
  Minnesota
Seattle 23
21 Final
     
  Denver
Arizona 30
21 Final