Pitts-berger is sizzling!

As the NFL begins the second half of its season, three teams lead the pack, and one of them – the Ben Roethlisberger -led Pittsburgh Steelers – has just notched record-setting victories over the other two.

With their 27-3 win over the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, following a 34-20 triumph over the New England Patriots the week before, the Steelers now match both teams for the NFL's best record (7-1). Those victories also made Pittsburgh the first team in history with back-to-back wins over clubs with at least 6-0 records.

And it's the way the Steelers, led by rookie quarterback Roethlisberger (who has a personal-game winning streak of 19 in a row when adding his NFL rookie record-tying six consecutive victories to his 13 of last year at Miami of Ohio) have been winning, especially the past two weeks, that has brought the Steel City renewed attention. The team has matched the best starts in franchise history (1973, 1975, 1978).

In the past two weeks, Pittsburgh has a plus-445 rushing-yard total over its opponents, and a plus-476 total yards total. That's old-time Steeler football! How the team compares through nine weeks this year compared to last season at this point in 10 key categories:

CATEGORY

2003

2004

  CATEGORY

2003

2004

Record

2-6

7-1

  Third-Down Pct.

31.8

43.3

Points

148

197

  Inside-20 TD Pct.

34.6

66.7

Time of Poss.

30:45

34:26

  Take/Gives

-6

+8

Rush Yds./Game

87.4

160.8

  Sacks

18

24

Sacks Allowed

24

13

  Points Allowed

202

137



"Nobody ever thought we'd do this," says Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, fresh off a two-touchdown game. "We're giving defensive coordinators heck trying to figure out what we're going to do, with weapons all over the field and a quarterback who just keeps getting better."

In Week 10, Pittsburgh keeps trying to get better against the AFC North – and ol' time rival – Cleveland Browns. Some other highlight games of the week, with some big division matchups in store:

PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7-1) AT CLEVELAND BROWNS (3-5) SERIES

  STEELERS BROWNS
LEADER   55-48
STREAKS 13 of past 16  
COACHES VS. OPP. Cowher: 16-5 Davis: 1-7
LAST WEEK W 27-3 vs. Eagles L 27-13 at Ravens
LAST GAME 10/10/04: Browns 23 at Steelers 34. Pittsburgh RB Duce Staley rushes for 117 yards & 1 TD while Steelers rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger throws for 231 yards & 1 TD.
LAST GAME AT SITE 11/23/03: Steelers 13, Browns 6.  Pittsburgh's defense forces 5 turnovers, resulting in all 13 points. 
BROADCAST CBS (1:00 PM ET): Dick Enberg, Dan Dierdorf, Armen Keteyian (Field reporter)

STATS

PASSING Roethlisberger (R): 107-155-1,316-11-5-105.2 (2C) Garcia: 126-218-1,528-9-8-77.9
RUSHING Staley: 151-707-4.7-1 Green: 110-441-4.0-1
RECEIVING Ward: 51 (T3L)-621-12.2-3 Northcutt: 26-251-9.7-0
OFFENSE 341.1 297.8
TAKE/GIVE +8 (T2C) -4
DEFENSE 261.6 (1C) 333.5
SACKS A. Smith: 5.0 Ekuban: 5.0
INTs Townsend: 3 Henry: 3
PUNTING Gardocki: 43.6 Frost: 41.2
KICKING Reed: 53 (23/23 PAT; 10/14 FG) Dawson: 64 (16/16 PAT; 16/16 FG)

NOTES

  • AFC'S Oldest Rivalry: clubs meet for 105th time, including 2 playoffs.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: Club ranks No. 1 in NFL in both rush offense (160.8) & rush defense (81.0). 

  • Head coach Bill Cowher is 16-5 (.762) in career vs. Cle. Cowher is 7-1 (.875) vs. Browns' Butch Davis.

  • Rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger (No. 11) is native of Findlay, OH, 124 miles west of Cleveland. Rookie has 100.0+ pass rtg in 5 consecutive games w/ 8 TDs vs. 2 INTs in those 5. With win, sets record for most winning starts by rookie QB to begin career, surpassing Mike Kruczek (Pitt., 6, 1976).

  • RB Duce Staley has 4 100s in past 5 games played. Rushed for 117 yds on 25 carries w/ 1 TD in Wk 5 meeting. 

  • RB Jerome Bettis rushed for 149 yds vs. Phil. last week, his most since gaining 163 vs. Cle. on 11/11/01 (41 games ago). Bettis (12,631) needs 109 yds to surpass Hall Of Fame RB Tony Dorsett(12,739) to be NFL's 5th-leading rusher all-time.

  • Among players w/ 24+ catches, WR Plaxico Burress has highest rec. avg. of 20.4 yards.

  • Defense (261.6) tops in AFC. LB James Farrior (3) tied for 2nd-most FRs by defensive player. Club tied w/ NE for AFC-high 24 sacks.

  • Cleveland Browns: Club is 3-1 at home & aims for 1st 4-1 home start since 1994 when team was 11-5 & made playoffs. Offense has scored 21+ pts in 3 of past 4.

  • In 4 home games, QB Jeff Garcia has 7 TD passes & 2 rushing TDs vs. 3 INTs .

  • RBs William Green & Lee Suggs have combined for 134 & 142 rush yards in past 2 home games.

  • In 1st 2 games w/ Browns after trade from Dallas, WR Antonio Bryant has 6 catches for 69 yards (11.5 avg.). TEs Aaron Shea & Steve Heiden combined for 138 receiving yards & 1 TD on 15 catches in past 2.

  • In past 3, opponents' leading rusher averaging 62.0 yards/game. DE Ebenezer Ekuban tied for 3rd among AFC DEs w/ 5.0 sacks. Club denying 1st down on 30.2 pct. of 3rd down tries, 2nd-best in AFC.

  • K Phil Dawson has kicked club-record 26 FGs in row & is only kicker not to miss this season. Dawson has made 100 of 119 career FG tries, making him NFL's 2nd-most accurate of all-time, min. 100 FGs made. KR-WR Richard Alston recorded 93-yd KOR-TD last wk at Balt.

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