Fittingly enough on a night when they honored their 1974 Super Bowl champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers overcame another dismal offensive performance with some stirring defense.
The Steelers sacked Chris Chandler seven times, then overcame Chandler's late heroics with two goal-line stands in the final two minutes to preserve a 13-9 victory tonight.
The Falcons trailed 13-0 and never threatened offensively until Chandler hit Terance Mathis on a five-yard scoring pass with 6 minutes 42 seconds to play. Chandler then found Mathis again on a 40-yard completion to the Steelers 7 following Jerome Bettis's midfield fumble.
But after Ken Oxendine ran six yards to set up second and goal at the 1, the Steelers stuffed three successive running plays.
Fullback Bob Christian was stopped for no gain by Kevin Henry on second down, and Levon Kirkland blew through the left side of the Falcons' offensive line to dump Christian for a one-yard loss on third down.
The Falcons (1-6) eschewed the short pass to run again on fourth down, but Earl Holmes and Kirkland teamed to stop Oxendine inches short of the goal line on fourth down.
Sitting only a few feet away from the end zone, several of the 1974 Steelers -- a team driven by Hall of Fame defenders Joe Greene, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert -- slapped high fives in celebration.
The Steelers (4-3), unable to get a first down that would run out the clock, then took a safety rather than punt out of the end zone on fourth down to make it 13-9.
Still, Chandler wasn't done, finding Tim Dwight for 27 yards to the Steelers 5 with five seconds left. But, after spiking the ball to save time for one last play, Chandler couldn't find an open Dwight over the middle on the final play that epitomized the frustration of a disappointing team that reached the Super Bowl only 10 months ago.
"We had to stop them, we had no choice," Steelers cornerback Chad Scott said. "If we don't stop them, we lose the game."