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:: Slam NFL - 9/20/98

 

 

Sunday, September 20, 1998

DOLPHINS 21, Steelers 0

Steelers sputter against Dolphins

  • MIAMI (AP) -- The Miami Dolphins harried Kordell Stewart, smothered his receivers and stymied Jerome Bettis. It all added up to a zero for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
     Stewart passed for just 82 yards with three interceptions, including Zach Thomas' 17-yard touchdown return, and the Dolphins' defense outscored Pittsburgh in a 21-0 victory Sunday. It was Miami's first shutout in six seasons.
     The Dolphins managed only 219 yards, including 113 by Dan Marino, but a group of young, swarming defenders carried them to victory for the second week in a row. Stewart completed just 11 of 35 passes and was intercepted twice by Sam Madison.
     "It's frustrating for the quarterback and the receivers to have guys in their face the whole game," Madison said. "Kordell was trying to get his timing down, but we were knocking the receivers off their routes, and he couldn't get his arm going. Then there were guys coming at him at 100 mph. It's frustrating for him."
     Heavy rain beginning in the third period turned the baseball infield into a muddy quagmire, which compounded the Steelers' offensive woes.
     "There are a lot of things we can say, but the best thing is that life goes on," Stewrt said. "There are 13 games left in this season, and this game doesn't make any difference if we go to the Super Bowl."
     AFC East leader Miami improved to 3-0, and Pittsburgh fell to 2-1.
     In a matchup of stout defenses and struggling offenses, the game figured to be low-scoring -- and for the Steelers it was. Pittsburgh, which came into the game ranked next-to-last in the AFC in yardage, was shut out for the first time since a 27-0 loss at Los Angeles on Sept. 12, 1993.
     "We're all accountable, and it starts with the guy you're talking to," coach Bill Cowher said. "I'm not going to wallow in self-pity. Whatever it takes to get this thing turned around, we're going to get it done."
     The Dolphins' shutout was their first since a 31-0 playoff victory over San Diego on Jan. 10, 1993, and their first in the regular season since a 28-0 win at Indianapolis on Nov. 8, 1992.
     "Shutouts are hard to get, especially in this league," defensive end Jason Taylor said. "The Steelers were a couple of plays from the Super Bowl last season, so to shut them out is special."
     "The way we're winning, it's very simple: one-on-one battles," cornerback Terrell Buckley said. "That makes it fun."
     Bettis, coming off a 131-yard game, was held to 48 yards in 13 carries.
     "If you're not on all cylinders against a great defense like that, you're going to get embarrassed," Bettis said. "And today we got embarrassed."
     Stewart, who began the game next-to-last in AFC quarterback ratings, struggled again in the face of a relentless pass rush. He was sacked only once but was repeatedly hit after he threw before being replaced by Mike Tomczak with two minutes remaining.
     The Dolphins contained Stewart's scrambling, too. He rushed twice for 17 yards.
     "This team is better than this," Stewart said. "I know I am. I know coach Cowher will get things resolved."
     Miami controlled the ball for 35 minutes, thanks largely to Karim Abdul-Jabbar, who ran for 108 yards in 33 attempts with one score.
     Marino, who was mildly criticized last week by coach Jimmy Johnson for failing to see open receivers, directed a ball-control attack, mixed his targets nicely and went 14-for-22 with one touchdown. He has yet to throw an interception this season.
     Johnson said the media exaggerated his criticism.
     "You guys aren't happy unless you stir up some controversy," he told reporters. "Dan is playing outstanding. He did a great job for us today. He could have had a big day numbers-wise if we needed that. The way the score was, we wanted to keep the ball on the ground."
     Middle linebacker Thomas stepped in front of a Stewart pass intended for Courtney Hawkins and returned the interception for a score and a 21-0 lead midway through the third period. That gave the Dolphins' defense two touchdowns this season; they've allowed three.
     Pittsburgh's next four possessions ended in a punt.
     Abdul-Jabbar scored first on a 3-yard run to cap a 64-yard march. Marino completed all five of his passes in the drive for 57 yards.
     On Pittsburgh's first play after the ensuing kickoff, Stewart was intercepted by Madison. Six players later, Marino's third-and-goal pass deflected off Dewayne Washington to Lamar Thomas in the end zone for an 8-yard score and 14-0 lead.
     Notes: The Dolphins reported no injuries. ... Steelers safety Darren Perry sat out the second half with a strained groin. ... Pittsburgh punter Josh Miller bruised his right knee when teammate Chris Oldham was pushed into him in the third quarter, but he returned to kick later in the period. ... Miller pinned Miami down at the 4-yard line in the first period with a 73-yard punt, the longest of his three-year career. ... Cowher fell to 13-3 against the AFC East. ... Before the game, the Dolphins held a ceremony outside the stadium to unveil a statue of team founder Joe Robbie, who died in 1990. ... Abdul-Jabbar lost a fumble in the first period for the first turnover this season by the Dolphins' offense. ... Abdul-Jabbar scored his 28th career rushing touchdown, which tied him with Jim Kiick for third on the team's career list
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