Steelers 21, Bears 9

Preview | Box Score | Recap

PITTSBURGH (AP)—The field was soft and muddy and the snow was falling heavily on one of those nasty-weather days most NFL offensive players despise. To Jerome Bettis, the conditions were next to perfect.

Bettis, the NFL’s No. 5 career rusher but a forgotten man much of the season, plowed through the muck and snow for two touchdowns and 101 yards and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat Chicago 21-9 on Sunday to end the Bears’ eight-game winning streak.

A season-long lack of offense finally caught up to the Bears (9-4) as their normally exceptional defense was merely average, failing to generate any turnovers despite a day seemingly made for mistakes. Instead, it was made for the 260-pound Bettis, a power runner who doesn’t need snow tires when the temperatures fall and the going gets rough.

“He’s a mudder,” wide receiver Hines Ward said. “Those were great field conditions for him. People think he’s down and out and he had a game like he had today.”

Bettis, held to 22 yards on 14 carries in his previous two games, had his first 100-yard game in the regular season since getting 117 on Dec. 26 against Baltimore. Bettis’ previous season high was 56 yards against Cincinnati on Oct. 23, and he had only 186 yards in Pittsburgh’s first 12 games.

Before Bettis got rolling, Ben Roethlisberger—all but ignoring the deep pass due to his bad thumb and the bad weather—threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ward on Pittsburgh’s first drive after hitting Willie Parker for 45 yards, both on screen passes.

After that, the Steelers (8-5) played a nearly error-free game to end a three-game losing streak, stay alive in the AFC playoff race and cut the Bears’ lead over Minnesota (8-5) to one game in the NFC North.

Bettis had 60 career 100-yard games before Sunday, but even he didn’t know if had another left in him.

“Absolutely not. My role is to come in and spell Willie Parker,” Bettis said. “But this game was set up for me with the weather and the conditions.”

At one point, Ward walked up to Bettis and reminded him that nobody runs in bad weather like he does.

“We were desperate,” Ward said. “It’s a one-game season every week for us. We’ve got to play like it’s the playoffs, because we don’t have a lot of room for error.”

The Steelers’ three touchdowns matched a season high against the Bears, and their 21 points were the most against Chicago since a 24-9 loss to Cincinnati on Sept. 25. The Steelers outgained the Bears 363-268 and outrushed them 190-83 after being held below 100 yards rushing during each game of the three-game losing streak.

“We’re a lot better defense than we were out there,” coach Lovie Smith said. “It was a bad day for the Bears.”

With the Bears’ defense allowing only 68 points during their longest winning streak since the 1985 Super Bowl championship team won 12 in a row, rookie quarterback Kyle Orton kept winning—even while fumbling 11 times and throwing 13 interceptions.

But when the Bears finally needed him to bring them from behind, Orton (17-of-35, 207 yards) couldn’t do it, or come close. Still, Smith never considered pulling him for Rex Grossman, who is back after breaking an ankle during the preseason.

The Bears drove to the Steelers’ 3 following Ward’s third touchdown catch in two games, but Orton was sacked for an eight-yard loss on second-and-goal and threw incomplete on third down. That forced them to settle for Robbie Gould’s 29-yard field goal and a 7-3 deficit.

“I’m not happy with that one,” Orton said. “We’ve got to get better.”

Six Bears possessions and punts later, the Steelers led 21-3 after Bettis scored on runs of 1 yard midway through the second quarter and 5 yards in the third quarter.

“We saw something in the Bears defense that made us think we could run the ball against them,” Roethlisberger said. “We wanted to get back to what the Pittsburgh Steelers are supposed to do.”

Roethlisberger (13-of-20 for 173 yards, no interceptions) threw almost no high-risk passes a week after having a career-high three interceptions in a damaging 38-31 loss to Cincinnati that left the Bengals in control of the AFC North. The Bengals (10-3) stayed two games up by beating Cleveland 23-20 Sunday.

In a four-way race for the two AFC wild card spots, the Steelers trail the Jaguars (9-4) by a game and are tied with the Chiefs (8-5) and Chargers (8-5). But the Steelers have the worst conference record (6-5) of the four, a problem if there are any ties.

Notes

The Bears played without both starting safeties, Chris Harris (knee) and Mike Brown (calf). … Thomas Jones, the Bears’ 1,000-yard rusher, had 72 yards but hasn’t had a 100-yard game in seven games. … Bettis’ 100-yard game was only the Steelers’ fourth of the season; they had 11 while going 15-1 last season. … No NFL team has missed the playoffs after going 15-1 the previous season.

Related Articles

Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Chicago
T. Jones T. Jones RB
14 Rush, 72 yds
1 TD
 Pittsburgh
J. Bettis J. Bettis RB
17 Rush, 101 yds
2 TDs

Team Stat Leaders

Passing Yards
Rushing Yards
Receiving Yards

Scoreboard

Week 14
  Sunday, Dec 11  
  Chicago
Pittsburgh 9
21 Final
     
  Cleveland
Cincinnati 20
23 Final
     
  Houston
Tennessee 10
13 Final
     
  Indianapolis
Jacksonville 26
18 Final
     
  New England
Buffalo 35
7 Final
     
  Oakland
NY Jets 10
26 Final
     
  St. Louis
Minnesota 13
27 Final
     
  Tampa Bay
Carolina 20
10 Final
     
  NY Giants
Philadelphia 26
23 Final
OT
     
  San Francisco
Seattle 3
41 Final
     
  Washington
Arizona 17
13 Final
     
  Baltimore
Denver 10
12 Final
     
  Kansas City
Dallas 28
31 Final
     
  Miami
San Diego 23
21 Final
     
  Detroit
Green Bay 13
16 Final
OT
      Monday, Dec 12  
  New Orleans
Atlanta 17
36 Final