Steelers off to fast start

One reason the Steelers have the toughest schedule in the NFL is they and the rest of the AFC North must play the NFC East division, and for Pittsburgh, it starts with their trip to Philadelphia Sunday.

Pittsburgh has not won in Philadelphia since 1965, a stretch of seven straight losses, most recently in 1997. They have not had much success against the Eagles overall either, winning just four of their past 15 meetings.

If they played the Eagles more often, the Steelers might know how the Browns feel because Pittsburgh's 10-6 win at Cleveland Sunday night was their 10th straight against them. It also gave the defending AFC North champion Steelers a big leg up on the Browns team that tied them at 10-6 last season and was supposed to give them a run for their money this season.

"We're 2-0," Steelers wide receiver Ward said. "Cincinnati and Cleveland are 0-2. They have to catch up to us. It is big. Everybody picked Cleveland as the team to beat. We came on the road and won up here; it speaks volumes for our team. ... We are the division champions from last year."

Pittsburgh is in the midst of playing four out of five on the road, although Cleveland has become more like home for the Steelers, who won for the ninth time in 10 meetings since the Browns returned to the NFL.

Ward and halfback Willie Parker are off to fast starts, and in some ways both came into this season with a question mark. For Ward, it was turning 32 and having Santonio Holmes take over as the homerun threat and perhaps the go-to guy. But Ward has three touchdown receptions to tie his fastest two-game start since he tied the Steelers record with 12 touchdowns in 2002.

Then there's Parker. He ended last season with a broken fibula on his first carry in Game 15, which he entered as the NFL's leading rusher. After two games, he has 243 yards rushing on 53 carries. If it wasn't clear before the season, two items are now: Parker is back in top form and rookie Rashard Mendenhall will have to wait to get a good number of carries in the Steelers offense.

Mendenhall carried 10 times for 28 yards in a mopup role in Pittsburgh's opening 38-17 victory against Houston, but he did not enter the game on offense in Cleveland.

"When your number gets called, you have to make plays," Parker said.

Also back in top form is safety Troy Polamalu. He missed five games last year, played through injuries in others and for the first time he did not have a sack or an interception during the season. He has two interceptions in two games, his most recent near the goal line to prevent a Cleveland score in a four-point victory.

Polamalu also held Kellen Winslow to 55 yards on seven catches, an average of just 7.9 yards per grab.


--CB Deshea Townsend should return to start against the Eagles after he missed last Sunday's game in Cleveland with a bruised heel.
--DE Brett Keisel left Sunday's game in Cleveland in the first quarter with an injured right calf and did not return. His status for this week is unknown.
--WR Santonio Holmes, who led the NFL with an 18.1-yard average last season, is over 16 yards a catch this year but has yet to score.
--QB Ben Roethlisberger has two games over a 100 passer rating and has not thrown an interception. He has three TD passes.

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