Leftwich, Swarming Steelers Defense Stun Redskins

Leftwich leads Pittsburgh to win

Two things popped into Byron Leftwich's mind when he got word at halftime he'd be replacing an injured Ben Roethlisberger as the Steelers' quarterback.

One was: Forget about listening to Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin's locker-room speech, I need to head out onto the field and warm up my arm.

The other thought? "I truly don't know the offense yet."

Well, he knows enough.

Coming in after Roethlisberger got banged up on a 1-yard touchdown sneak late in the first half Monday night, Leftwich led two scoring drives, and Pittsburgh's defense shut down Clinton Portis and intercepted Jason Campbell twice in a 23-6 victory over Washington.

"No stage or situation is too big for Byron Leftwich," Tomlin said. "He's got that eerie calm about him under all circumstances."

Leftwich, a 2003 first-round draft pick, started 46 games for Jacksonville and Atlanta before signing with Pittsburgh in August. He went 7-for-10 for 129 yards, including a 50-yard completion to Nate Washington that set up Willie Parker's 1-yard TD run in the third quarter, and threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the fourth.

Roethlisberger was left to celebrate those two scoring plays with left-handed high-fives for teammates -- he made sure to keep his bothersome right shoulder perfectly still.

He aggravated a slight separation that has hindered him much of the season. After the game, neither Roethlisberger nor Tomlin had much to say about the QB's status.

"We all know Ben's the guy," Leftwich said. "Ben's the quarterback of this football team, and I know I was going to be there in case something happened. Something happened today."

Before exiting, Roethlisberger was only 5-for-17 for 50 yards with an interception, part of a generally dismal first half of offense for both teams.

The difference, though, was that Pittsburgh's D was relentless throughout.

The AFC North-leading Steelers (6-2) sacked Campbell seven times and ended his franchise-record streak of 271 passes without an interception, a run that dated to last season.

"When the team that they're playing has to throw," Redskins coach Jim Zorn said, with admiration in his voice, "they just kind of put the warrior bandanna on -- and here they come."

Pittsburgh also limited Portis to 51 yards on 13 carries, ending the league-leading rusher's streak of five consecutive games with at least 120 yards.

"We were hoping to go out and play our football, play smash-mouth football," Portis said. "Instead, we got smashed."

The Redskins (6-3) sure did, and the margin of defeat was by far their biggest this season. They head into their bye week needing to figure out why they're having so much trouble finishing drives.

The Steelers gambled with an onside kick to open the game, but Washington recovered and got the ball on Pittsburgh's 36. But the Steelers stopped Portis on third-and-2, forcing Washington to settle for a field goal.

When Pittsburgh's first possession ended with an interception of Roethlisberger, Washington had the ball at Pittsburgh's 30. Again, the Steelers limited the Redskins to three-and-out, and another field goal put the hosts ahead 6-0 about 4 minutes into the game.

"That," Steelers linebacker James Farrior, "set the mood of the game."

Washington wouldn't score over the remaining 56 minutes against Pittsburgh's top-rated defense, which got picks from Deshea Townsend and Tyrone Carter in the second half.

"I practice against those guys every day, because I'm the scout-team quarterback," said Leftwich, who was born in the nation's capital and had more than three dozen friends and relatives at the game. "I know how good they are."

So, too, does Washington. 

Notes: Parker, sidelined for about a month with a knee injury, gained 70 yards on 21 carries. Holmes, benched last weekend after being charged with a marijuana-related offense, had three catches for 30 yards. ... There were thousands of Steelers fans at the game, many waving yellow Terrible Towels. "There was a lot of 'em," Campbell said. "I was definitely surprised to see that many of them in our home stadium." ... The Redskins wore burgundy jerseys with burgundy pants for the first time in franchise history, the team said. ... It was the first presidential election-eve NFL game hosted by Washington since 1984, and ESPN showed taped interviews with candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. ... Several spectators held homemade signs making reference to Tuesday's vote, including one reading, "Elect the Redskins Super Bowl Champions" and another touting, "Zorn for President."

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