Steelers finally feel at home on road
By F. Dale Lolley, Staff writer,
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DETROIT - The last time so many Steelers fans showed up at Ford Field, the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10, in Super Bowl XL.

The crowd of 59,333 here Sunday was well short of more than 68,000 that watched the Super Bowl but it was no less pro-Steelers.

And they were treated to another banner day by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns as the Steelers defeated the Detroit Lions, 28-20.

"Playing in the Super Bowl here brought back a lot of memories," said wide receiver Hines Ward, who caught a team-high seven passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.

"We had just as many fans as we did back then, so that's what we love about playing for this organization. They're the best fans in all of football, and wherever we go they show their support."

The Steelers needed all of that support - and crowd noise - to win this one.

The first road victory of the season lifted Pittsburgh to 3-2 and kept the Steelers one game behind surprising Cincinnati (4-1) in the AFC North. The Bengals, who already own a win over Pittsburgh, knocked off Baltimore (3-2) Sunday.

Detroit (1-4) tried its hardest to send the Steelers to their third road loss.

Trailing 28-13 entering the fourth quarter, the Lions looked to do what Chicago and Cincinnati have accomplished against the Steelers - mount a comeback in the closing moments.

Daunte Culpepper, subbing for injured rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Northcutt with 5:03 remaining to trim Pittsburgh's lead to 28-20.

After Rashard Mendenhall tore off an eight-yard run on first down on Pittsburgh's next possession, he was stopped for a two-yard loss. Roethlisberger then threw incomplete to rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Pittsburgh punted back to Detroit, which took over at its own 29-yard line with 3:07 remaining.

Culpepper quickly moved the Lions to the Pittsburgh 21 with 1:54 left, putting Detroit in position to tie the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion.

But the Steelers blitzed cornerback William Gay on back-to-back plays. Gay shared a sack with linebacker LaMarr Woodley on first down and got to the quarterback on his own on second down. Faced with third-and-21 at the Pittsburgh 32, Culpepper was sacked a third time, this one by inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Culpepper threw incomplete on fourth down to end Detroit's chances.

"Coach LeBeau just got aggressive," said Steelers safety Ryan Clark of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "I guess he figured that if we're going to give up leads, let's give them up while being who we are. The drive they scored on, we were playing deep and they kind of dinked and dunked us down the field, then split us down the middle. Coach LeBeau just got tired of it and decided to bring the heat."

Detroit's near comeback would have ruined what was another strong performance by Roethlisberger.

Though he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown for the second consecutive week - this one by Brownsville native William James in the second quarter - Roethlisberger completed 23 of 30 passes, including touchdowns to Heath Miller and Ward in the first half, and Wallace in the second.

"The things that are exciting right now offensively are that Ben is using all of his eligible (receivers)," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "He's dumping the ball, of course Heath is a constant and he's finding his third wideout in Mike Wallace. As long as we use all the eligibles ... and get the ball to the open man, we're going to be a tougher unit to stop."

Mendenhall, subbing for injured Willie Parker for the second consecutive week, had another strong game, gaining 77 yards 15 carries and scoring the Steelers' first touchdown on a seven-yard first-quarter run. He also caught two passes for 16 yards.

"He's continuing to run the ball hard," Tomlin said. "He didn't get as many looks as we would like. (Detroit) had a lot to do with that. They controlled possession of the ball, particularly in the second half. We would have liked to have had more runs."

Odds and end zones

Linebacker James Harrison matched his season total with three sacks to go along with eight tackles and a forced fumble. ... The Steelers finished with seven sacks. ... After being inactive for last week's win over San Diego, wide receiver Limas Sweed was active Sunday. He dropped the only pass thrown to him. ... Steelers guard Trai Essex suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter but returned. He was replaced by Doug Legursky. ... Safety Ryan Clark had an interception in the third quarter, the Steelers' first since Troy Polamalu had one against Tennessee in Week 1. ... Clark suffered an injury to his left shoulder on Detroit's final possession but returned a few plays later.