Former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw waves to fans before a live FOX NFL Sunday broadcast before the Steelers game yesterday.
Click photo for larger image.
Joey Porter promised a victory and for the third time in three tries, he and his teammates delivered.
"We will win,'' Porter said Wednesday.
They did win, which makes Porter 3 for 3. He called out the Indianapolis Colts before the Steelers' playoff victory last year, and then called Jerramy Stevens "soft" before the Seahawks tight end dropped three passes in the Super Bowl.
"Joey guaranteed it, so once one of our teammates does that, we have to back him up,'' tackle Max Starks said. "We have to stand behind his word.''
Said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: "He makes a statement like that, and we had to go out and back him up and play good football -- and we did it.''
"That's Joey," coach Bill Cowher said. "Joe does some talking. In his mind, he thinks we're going to win every time that we're on the field. I don't mind those statements. Joey's never offended the opponent.''
If the Saints were offended by Porter's prediction, they didn't let on. Quarterback Drew Brees mentioned it but only to say, "We knew we'd get their best game." Added rookie running back Reggie Bush: "That was him just trying to fire his team up. We didn't take it personally."
He likes Ike
Cowher decided to stick with Ike Taylor after all.
Taylor and not Bryant McFadden started at left cornerback yesterday even though Taylor said Cowher told him earlier in the week that he might bench him. As the week went on, the coach apparently changed his mind.
"The decision was made later in the week,'' Cowher said. "I wanted to see how people looked, how they handled the challenge, and made decisions accordingly.''
More for Morey
Cowher said there would be changes after his team's 2-6 start, and the first change came right at the start of the game.
Special teams captain Sean Morey was back returning kicks with Najeh Davenport, marking the first time Morey has been in that role since joining the team in 2004. For Morey, it was a return to his roots.
"I did this in Philadelphia and when I played in Europe," Morey said. "I finally got a shot to play in the right position for the first time in three years."
Davenport has been a solid kick returner since he joined the team earlier this year. But Morey hadn't returned kicks since playing with the Eagles in 2003, when he returned seven kicks for an average of 13.3 yards. In 2003 as a member of the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe, Morey finished second in the league with a 26.3-yard average.
In the victory yesterday, Morey returned two kicks for an average of 19 yards. He also fumbled a return at the end of the first half, but it was recovered by the Steelers' Tyrone Carter. Davenport averaged a strong 24.3 yards per return, including a 40-yard return on the game's opening kick to give the Steelers the ball at midfield.
"It's tough to stop Najeh," Morey said. "He's a tough, physical guy. He's a bear."
When a team runs for 217 yards the offensive line has a big role in that success. And for the second week in a row, the same starting five played, surrendering only two sacks in addition to the big running game.
"Things are going good for us in the running game," said Steelers center Chukky Okobi, making his second consecutive start for the injured Jeff Hartings. "And Willie [Parker] does a good job of reading his blocks. You have to give credit to [Ken] Whisenhunt and [Russ] Grimm, too. They called a really good game."
Earlier this season, Cowher had alternated Kendall Simmons and Chris Kemoeatu at right guard, but has started Simmons the past two games. Okobi said that the entire offense has been in a good rhythm the past two games.
"We've got some great guys on this line," Okobi said. "As we get more time together and more reps we'll be even better."
The Saints insisted it wasn't a trick play that enabled running back Deuce McAllister to score a 4-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.
On the play, it looked as if center Jeff Faine snapped the ball around Brees' left leg to McAllister, who fielded it in the backfield and took off over left tackle. "That definitely wasn't a designed play," McAllister said. Added Brees, "That's the best looking trick play you'll ever see that wasn't supposed to be a trick play . . . Jeff told me the ball stuck in the ground. I didn't even know what happened. The ball never hit my hands."
Saints rookie wide receiver Marques Colston had another fabulous game with 10 catches for 169 yards.
A strong rookie-of-the-year candidate, he has 27 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns in the Saints' past three games. What makes his story so amazing is that he was a seventh-round draft choice out of Hofstra, the 252nd player taken in the NFL draft.
Postgame commentary after Willie Parker runs for 213 yards and two touchdowns as the Steelers beat the Saints, 38-31, at Heinz Field:
"It's not a perfect science," Saints coach Sean Payton said of NFL scouting. "I know it's this day and age, but I still think some mistakes are made on guys taken in the first round and mistakes made on guys taken later on. He's just one of those good stories."
Davenport had two good kickoff returns, one that started a scoring drive. He returned the opening kick 40 yards to the 50 and the Steelers' jumped in front 7-0 six plays later. He returned another kickoff 31 yards. . . . WR Nate Washington dropped two more passes, one in the end zone, the second scoring chance he has dropped this season.. . . WR Hines Ward will be signing "contracts" in the Heinz Field locker room from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday for any person who agrees to become a "smoke-free free agent" and quit using tobacco products. The event is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Three Steelers, all defensive backs, had concussions in the game. Safety Troy Polamalu's came in the first quarter and cornerback Deshea Townsend's in the third. Both left and did not return.
Safety Tyrone Carter said he was knocked out briefly when he slammed into receiver Terrance Copper, causing a fumble at the Steelers' 25 with 39 seconds to go that may have saved a victory.
"I was out for the count," Carter said. "They said we had the ball so I was happy about that."
Carter replaced Polamalu and McFadden replaced Townsend. Rookie Anthony Smith came on in the dime defense when Polamalu was hurt and rookie Anthony Madison joined him when Townsend was injured.
"We had some young guys out there," Cowher said. "This will be valuable for them. They got some confidence for the future. Under the circumstances, I liked the look in their eyes on the sideline."
Steelers: WR Willie Reid, RB Duce Staley, LB Clint Kriewaldt, C Jeff Hartings, G Chris Kemoeatu, OT Willie Colon, LB James Harrison, DE Rodney Bailey.
Saints: CB Fred Thomas, S Steve Gleason, LB Alfred Fincher, OT Rob Petitti, TE Nate Lawrie, TE Ernie Conwell, TE John Owens, WR Joe Horn.
Ron Cook, Jerry Micco and Gene Collier of the Post-Gazette contributed to this report. Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .