The Washington Redskins only wish they were getting as much offense from their starters as the streaking Pittsburgh Steelers are from their backups.
Antwaan Randle El, making only his second NFL start at receiver, took care of the big plays and Jerome Bettis again handled the short yardage in his fourth consecutive 100-yard game off the bench to lead the Steelers past Washington 16-7 Sunday.
The Steelers' nine-game winning streak is their longest since they won their final nine in 1976. They are 10-1 for the first time since 1975, the second of their four Super Bowl championship seasons.
``We're 10-1, and that would have been hard to picture,'' guard Alan Faneca said. ``We've got a nice little thing going right now.''
Just like those Steel Curtain days of the 1970s, the Steelers are increasingly relying on the NFL's top-ranked defense as opponents come up with ways to contain unbeaten quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
The rookie had his second straight low-production game (9-of-20, 131 yards, four sacks) while constantly sidestepping Washington's pass rush, but it hardly made any difference even as Pittsburgh was held to 207 yards.
Randle El scampered through the Redskins' coverage team on punt returns of 60 and 43 yards to set up two first-half scores -- Bettis' 4-yard touchdown run, his 11th of the season, and the first of Jeff Reed's three field goals on a blustery day.
Randle El, making a spot start for the injured Plaxico Burress (hamstring), also made two catches for 37 yards and drew a 32-yard pass interference penalty.
``You need every guy,'' Randle El said. ``I don't care if you are the big star, if you don't have the rest of the guys doing what they are supposed to be doing it makes it hard. Special teams came up big, and we need to keep it going because sometimes the offense may sputter.''
Bettis started when Duce Staley unexpectedly sat out a fourth straight game with a sore hamstring, and responded with 100 yards on 31 carries. His 47th career 100-yard game matches Franco Harris' team record.
``I'm a mudder, so this was my weather,'' said Bettis, who last had four consecutive 100-yard games in 2001. ``It was a tough day -- they have the No. 2 defense in the league and you can see why -- but I'm a big guy and I always feel I can wear a defense down in the second half.''
The Redskins (3-8), headed for one of the lowest-scoring seasons in NFL history, were held to 156 yards and to single-digit scoring for a second consecutive game, following up a 28-6 loss to Philadelphia. They haven't scored more than 18 points in a game this season.
``One of our goals is to score 21 points,'' quarterback Patrick Ramsey said. ``We've got to do that.''
Washington was held to 50 yards as Pittsburgh opened a 13-0 lead in the first half.
``It's very tough to make yards on them; they're one of best defenses I've been against,'' Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. ``It was a little bit of us and a little bit of them. We hurt ourselves by dropping some balls and not executing.''
With star running back Clinton Portis sitting out most of the second half, the Redskins drove 79 yards in 13 plays early in the third quarter for Ramsey's 2-yard scoring pass to Chris Cooley on fourth-and-goal, cutting it to 13-7.
Portis, among the NFL's rushing leaders with 945 yards and coming off consecutive 1,500-yard seasons for Denver, had only six carries for 17 yards. He has just 54 yards the last two weeks.
``We felt our best way to get it downfield (was to throw),'' Gibbs said. ``I am sure he will be upset about it. I expect him to be. He is very competitive.''
Portis said, ``I'm not in Denver anymore, I'm in Washington, I have to find a way to be a key player in this system, the same way I was there.''
It is lookin good for us this year. Although Roethlisberger wasn't playing to his potential, it shows that we don't have to have Roethlisberger to succed. Even though it was no repeat of the Browns game, Bettis showed his stuff by leading the team in yards this game. And once again we put the plug on the few non-believers remaining after putting one more game in the bag for now atleast. It doesn't look like we are going to stop soon so long as us fans get out there. Lets pump up the players and get the city excited. GO STEELERS!