Pittsburgh finds way without Bettis

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The more they keep winning, the more the
Pittsburgh Steelers keep hearing about the 1970s. Maybe it's
because they haven't had a record this good since then.

Or, it would seem, a defense this good.

Could this be the beginning of another December swoon for the Jets?
I don't think so, because they run the ball so well and they've been playing better on defense.

They just need to make some plays in the passing game and score more points. The Jets are so conservative -- they're much like the Bears in that regard. New York needs to open up the offense some and get the ball to their speed guys, Laveranues Coles and Santana Moss. Vinny Testaverde has to get the ball down the field and into their hands.

The Jets have played too well on defense lately and they run the ball to well to go into an extended swoon.

ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.


The Steelers improved to 10-2 for the first time since their
Super Bowl days, overcoming another erratic game by kicker Kris
Brown and Jerome Bettis' absence to beat the New York Jets 18-7

"We don't want to get too ahead of ourselves, but you've got to
be excited," said Kordell Stewart, who led an efficient offense
that had five drives of 10 plays or longer. "It's working. You
can't help but be excited, because it hasn't been like this here in
a long time."

The Steelers opened a two-game lead over the idle Super Bowl
champion Ravens (8-4) in the AFC Central and assured themselves
they'll leave Baltimore with the division lead even if they lose
next Sunday.

"But we're not thinking about losing again," safety Lee
Flowers said. "Our goal is to not lose another game, because we
know what 14-2 will get us."

The Steelers have been 14-2 only in 1978, the third of their
four Super Bowl championship seasons. Their NFL-leading defense
played Sunday like one of those '70s teams, shutting out the Jets
in the second half and limiting NFL rushing leader Curtis Martin to
58 yards. He averaged twice that in his first three career games
against his hometown town.

"We weren't going to let him beat us," linebacker Joey Porter
said. "We wanted to stop him and make them find another way to
beat us."

The Steelers came closer to beating themselves as Brown, who
missed four field goals last month against Baltimore in their only
loss in 11 games, missed two field goals and an extra point.

"I can't keep having games like this," Brown said. "It's time
for me to buckle it up and make sure when we get close, we get

Brown bounced back to make kicks of 38 and 20 yards in the
fourth quarter to give Pittsburgh some breathing room. Earlier, he
made first-half attempts of 26 and 33 yards to end drives led by
Stewart's accurate throwing and playmaking.

Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala filled in for Bettis, who missed his
first start in 54 games because of hip and groin injuries, and
scored the only touchdown on a 1-yard run.

That made it 9-0 and ended a 79-yard drive featuring Stewart
completions of 29 and 11 yards to Hines Ward, who made 10 catches
for 124 yards. Stewart was 20-of-36 for 214 yards.

The Jets (7-5), suddenly in danger again of not making the
playoffs, very much looked like the team that can't beat the
Steelers, good years or bad. They came into the game 5-0 on the
road, but even that wasn't enough to get them a victory in
Pittsburgh, where they are 0-5.

"They're 10-2 and they played that way," Jets coach Herm
Edwards said.

The Jets' 1-14 record against the Steelers is the worst by any
NFL opponent against another, and quarterback Vinny Testaverde is
2-11 against them.

Of course, it didn't help the Jets that it's December. The Jets,
who missed the playoffs a year ago by losing their last three
following a 9-4 start, are 18-43 in December and beyond since 1986,
including 0-2 this year.

"But we're going to make the playoffs," safety Victor Green
said. "We're a good team, and we're going to get the three games
we need. I think 10-6 will get us in."

After Brown missed the extra point following Fuamatu-Ma'afala's
touchdown, the Jets answered with a 74-drive ended by Martin's
18-yard halfback option touchdown pass to Wayne Chrebet. But they
wouldn't threaten again until running out of downs after driving to
the Steelers' 12 in the final minute.

Unlike a week ago, when their defense relaxed with a 21-3 lead
against Minnesota and they nearly lost, the Steelers got stronger
in a second half in which Martin had little room to run, gaining
only 25 yards.

"We have the talent, we have the system, but we're not getting
it done and I don't know the answer," Martin said.

With Martin unable to get inside, Testaverde had trouble
stretching the defense and finished 15-of-26 for 141 yards.

Game notes
Bettis missed only his fourth game in nine seasons. His
injury prevented a matchup of the NFL's top two rushers. ... The
Steelers have yielded only 16 touchdowns in 12 games. ... Jets WR
Santana Moss sat out with a quadriceps injury. ... Ward didn't come
out despite a quadriceps contusion. ... Because the Steelers
recovered a squib kickoff, Brown had two field goal attempts in the
final 35 seconds of the first half, making one and missing one.

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