Steelers' D, Leftwich Lead Pittsburgh to 23-6 Victory

Election heightens interest in already intriguing matchup

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes leaps for a touchdown against Washington Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers during the fourth quarter in Landover, Md. The result of the Redskins' final home game before Election Day has accurately predicted the winner in 17 of the past 18 presidential elections.

    Byron Leftwich led two touchdown drives after Ben Roethlisberger reinjured his throwing shoulder and the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Washington Redskins 23-6 on Monday night.

    The Steelers' top-rated defense had seven sacks, allowed only 221 yards and became the first team this season to intercept Jason Campbell.

    Leftwich went 7-of-10 for 129 yards and a touchdown as the Steelers (6-2) beat an NFC East team for the first time in three attempts this season. Roethlisberger was 5-of-17 for 50 yards and an interception before leaving the game at halftime, again hindered by the slightly separated shoulder that has bothered him since the second week of the season.

    Leftwich's 50-yard completion to Nate Washington set up a 1-yard TD run by Willie Parker, back from a four-week layoff with a knee injury. The quarterback also had a 5-yard scoring pass to Santonio Holmes, who returned from a one-game benching over a charge for a marijuana-related offense.

    The subject of politics is inescapable on a team so close to the halls of power, so it wasn't surprising to hear spirited discussions about taxes and socialism throughout the Redskins locker room last week. Nor could ESPN resist the chance to schedule prerecorded interviews with McCain and Obama to air during halftime of the first election eve game hosted by Washington since 1984.

    The result of the Redskins' final home game before Election Day has accurately predicted the winner in 17 of the past 18 presidential elections.

    If the Redskins win, the incumbent political party stays in the White House. But if they lose, the incumbent party is voted out.

    Democrat Barack Obama told ESPN it's time for college football to pick a champion with a playoff system while Republican John McCain would put an end to performance-enhancing substances.

    On the eve of the election, the two presidential candidates were interviewed via satellite by ESPN's Chris Berman. The taped interviews aired during halftime of game between the Washington Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Both candidates were asked to name one thing they would change in sports.

    "I think it is about time that we had playoffs in college football. I'm fed up with these computer rankings and this and that and the other," Obama said. "Get eight teams — the top eight teams right at the end. You got a playoff. Decide on a National Champion."

    College football uses a Bowl Championship Series system, commonly known as BCS, that is based on computer rankings.

    McCain said he would "take significant action to prevent the spread and use of performance-enhancing substances. I think it's a game we're going to be in for a long time. What I mean by that is there is somebody in a laboratory right now trying to develop some type of substance that can't be detected and we've got to stay ahead of it. It's not good for the athletes. It's not good for the sports. It's very bad for those who don't do it, and I think it can attack the very integrity of all sports going all the way down to high school."

    Asked what was the best piece of advice he had received from the sports world, Obama said his high school basketball coach, when the young Obama rebelled against him, said, "'Look, this is not about you, this is about the team.' It took me awhile to understand ... but that's how I've approached the work I've done in politics since. If you stay focused outside yourself, you end up doing a better job."

    In answer to the same question, McCain said he drew a lesson from a high school coach who also was a literature teacher.

    "The guy was my inspiration then and is my inspiration to this day," McCain said. "The lesson he taught me was you always have to do the honorable thing, even if no one knows, because you'll know."

    Not lost on the candidates, who have spent millions of dollars on campaign advertising, is the ratings for "Monday Night Football." ESPN said this year's Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys telecast on Sept. 15 attracted cable's largest audience ever — 13 million homes and 18.6 million viewers.