Defense Delivers for 49ers, Steelers: Pittsburgh Harasses Harbaugh, Scores 29 Straight Points

By Snider, Rick | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 30, 1996 | Go to article overview

Defense Delivers for 49ers, Steelers: Pittsburgh Harasses Harbaugh, Scores 29 Straight Points


Snider, Rick, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher's halftime speech was barely above a whisper, as Cowher had nearly lost his voice a few days earlier.

But the players heard him clearly. With his team trailing 14-13 despite dominating the Indianapolis Colts, Cowher told the Steelers to remain optimistic and continue controlling the game.

"I said the first half was filled with emotion and energy, so why should the second half be any different?" Cowher said.

Sure enough, the Steelers opened the third quarter with a 16-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that used up 9 1/2 minutes and broke the Colts' confidence. Quickly, the game turned into a laugher as the Steelers won 42-14 yesterday before 58,078 at Three Rivers Stadium.

"I don't know if I've seen a drive that took us that much time, that was executed that well," Cowher said. "There weren't many plays that didn't work. No big plays, just a methodical, well-executed drive."

Unlike the past two seasons, when Pittsburgh played at home throughout the conference playoffs, the Steelers (11-6) must now travel to the AFC East champion New England Patriots (11-5) on Sunday. Pittsburgh can host the AFC Championship on Jan. 12 only if it beats New England and Jacksonville upsets Denver on Saturday.

But the Steelers gave the Terrible Towel-waving crowd an exciting farewell on a near spring-like afternoon. Pittsburgh scored a team playoff record 42 points behind Jerome Bettis' 102 yards rushing with two touchdowns and quarterback Kordell Stewart's scoring runs of 1 and 3 yards. The defense limited the Colts to 41 yards rushing and 146 yards overall.

"I saw some things I didn't even know we had," Cowher joked. "I thought we played a really complete game outside [of] a couple mistakes."

Those mistakes cost Pittsburgh dearly as Indianapolis cornerback Eugene Daniel scored on a 59-yard interception late in the second quarter. Two minutes later, the Colts again intercepted a deflection off Steelers tight end Kirk Botkin that quickly led to a 14-13 lead with 31 seconds remaining in the opening half.

"I felt we had the momentum and had a good feeling coming out of the locker room," said Colts coach Lindy Infante. …

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