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They're back: Steel Curtain drops on Kansas City

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger
couldn't have played any worse for a month. The NFL now must be
wondering how much better the Super Bowl champions can be after a
convincing all-is-well performance.

The Steelers revived everything they displayed in winning the
championship as Roethlisberger threw his first two touchdown passes
since the AFC Championship Game in a 45-7 rout of the Chiefs on
Sunday.

Despite not starting three injured regulars -- one of whom, guard
Kendall Simmons, fell asleep with an ice pack on his leg and
suffered frostbite -- the Steelers never resembled the team that
could barely gain a first down in a 9-0 loss to Jacksonville, or
ran only 18 plays in the second half of last week's 23-13 loss at
San Diego.

Maybe it was watching AFC North leaders Baltimore (4-2) and
Cincinnati (3-2) lose earlier in the afternoon, tightening up the
division race. But the Steelers (2-3) played with the confidence
and composure they lacked while losing three in a row.

"We started fast -- we started real fast," said coach Bill
Cowher, who admittedly didn't see this coming during a week in
which his team had some "soul searching to do."

"They had to start showing they were that Super Bowl team
again," Chiefs defensive end Tamba Hali said. "That's how they
played."

Roethlisberger was among the NFL's lowest-rated quarterbacks
with no touchdown passes and seven interceptions, while Kansas
City's Damon Huard was highly rated with five touchdowns and no
interceptions. All that changed in a momentum-shifting few hours in
which Roethlisberger could again do little wrong and Huard, a
longtime backup, could do little right while completing only 16 of
32 passes for 162 yards and an interception.

"I tried throwing to the guys in the black shirts rather than
the guys in the white shirts," Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger had no touchdown passes and nine interceptions in
his last four starts, counting the Super Bowl. Questions were
raised if he was fully healed from his violent June motorcycle
crash and his appendectomy last month.

But he was as sharp and polished as in the playoffs, going
16-of-19 for 238 yards and TDs of 47 yards to Nate Washington and
13 yards to Hines Ward. He constantly exploited the Chiefs'
not-too-successful man coverage as the Steelers outgained the
Chiefs 372-47 while opening a 31-0 lead at halftime. They ended
with a 457-213 edge in yardage.

"They were saying he can't throw and there was all that
motorcycle jazz. But he played awesome, he played the way Ben can
play," defensive end Brett Keisel said.

Roethlisberger got the Steelers going on the third play of the
game, hitting rookie Santonio Holmes for 50 yards after defender Ty Law slipped. Holmes would have scored if he hadn't fallen in the
open field, but Willie Parker scored several plays later from the
3.

"I looked Ty Law in the eye before the play and said, 'I've got
to make a play right here,' " Holmes said.

Roethlisberger found a wide-open Washington for a touchdown on
Pittsburgh's next possession, and the Chiefs (2-3) couldn't come
back from this 14-0 deficit like they did last week in rallying to
beat Arizona 23-20. Not with Parker running for 109 yards while
repeatedly finding the big holes and running lanes that last year's
AFC rushing leader, Larry Johnson, couldn't locate.

"We got beat, we got embarrassed and we got to learn from it,"
coach Herm Edwards said. "We've got to regroup."

Johnson followed a 36-yard effort against Arizona with 26 yards
on 15 carries and a touchdown. Johnson stood out only once, in the
unaccustomed role of tackler.

He ran down Troy Polamalu on a 49-yard interception return in
the third quarter by grabbing the All-Pro safety by his long hair.
Johnson whipped Polamalu to the ground out of bounds along the
Chiefs' sideline, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty
and touching off a brief skirmish.

"The dude had hair, what was I going to do?" said Johnson,
whose neck was injured last week by Arizona defensive back Antrel
Rolle's horsecollar tackle. "That was the only thing I could get
my hands on."

Polamalu said, "It doesn't matter to me if he tackles me by my
hair or my ankles."

Game notes
The Steelers have never started 1-4 since Cowher was hired
in 1992. ... Second-year LB Rian Wallace, playing because of
injuries to Joey Porter and James Harrison, had a 30-yard
interception return TD. ... Former Pro Bowl LB Chad Brown, signed
last week, had his 31st career sack with the Steelers in his first
game for them in nine years. ... The Chiefs hadn't played in
Pittsburgh since 1989. ... A team that opened 1-3 has made the NFL
playoffs 13 times in the last 16 years.

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