Steelers Pound Cassel and the Patriots

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 1, 2008

FOXBOROUGH, Mass., Nov. 30 -- Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had an aching right shoulder practically all season while absorbing too many hits and throwing too many interceptions. Tailback Willie Parker has been in and out of the lineup because of knee and shoulder injuries, and at times the Pittsburgh Steelers have had a rather ordinary offense to go with their terrific defense.

But here they are, rolling right along and keeping themselves in the conversation about which team is the AFC's best. The Steelers made Matt Cassel look like just a fill-in quarterback and beat the New England Patriots, 33-10, on a cold, rainy day at Gillette Stadium.

"Our offense got going," Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said, "and our defense was their usual selves."

Roethlisberger threw an early interception to set up a Patriots touchdown, but settled down from there and threw touchdown passes to wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward. The Steelers scored 30 unanswered points. Parker ran for 87 yards, and backup tailback Mewelde Moore added 67 as the Steelers totaled 161 rushing yards, and the Pittsburgh defense took it from there.

The Steelers logged five sacks against Cassel, who took over for the injured Tom Brady in the opening game of the season and was coming off back-to-back 400-yard passing performances. Cassel lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions.

The Patriots had five second-half turnovers, including a fumble on a kickoff, and managed only 81 yards of offense after halftime, five of them in the third quarter.

"We were right where we wanted to be in the first half," Cassel said. "And then when you go out and turn the ball over five times in the second half, that's what happens."

The talk about Cassel cashing in big on the free agent market in the offseason and the Patriots having to decide what to do with both Cassel and Brady was put on hold, at least temporarily. Cassel had the ball stripped from him twice by linebacker James Harrison and threw interceptions to safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

"The second half, we stepped it up a little bit," Harrison said.

The Patriots also had wide receiver Randy Moss drop two key first-half passes and lost wideout Wes Welker, who walked off the field and didn't come back to the game after a jarring hit by safety Ryan Clark that drew a 15-yard penalty for striking a defenseless player. Welker had four catches, ending his NFL-record streak of having at least six catches in 11 straight games to open a season.

The Patriots (7-5) remained a game behind the first-place New York Jets in the AFC East, while the Steelers (9-3) stayed a game in front of the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North. Place kicker Jeff Reed had four field goals for the Steelers, who held a 12th straight opponent this season below 300 yards.

"It's great to come to their place and beat them the way we did," Parker said. "The defense really scored those points for us. We got a short field, and we just took it in."

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