Steelers Notebook: Harrison ties sack record, but wants more
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Linebacker James Harrison tackled Tony Romo for his 15th quarterback sack this season. It tied Mike Merriweather's team record set in 1984 when he played the same outside right linebacker position.
Harrison's reaction to tying the record?
"OK," he replied.
What could be better?
"The Super Bowl," he answered.
For a little while, Harrison was tied for the NFL lead until DeMarcus Ware sacked Ben Roethlisberger midway through the third quarter for his 16th.
It also ran the Harrison-LaMarr Woodley total to 26.5, extending their team record for a duo, and was the third sack in two games in which he forced a fumble -- his seventh of the season.
"That's what I'm trying to do," Harrison said. "It's just something you get used to doing. When you get to the quarterback, you want to try to sack him and strip the ball. That time, he just didn't hold onto it good enough. I really didn't reach for it."
Wide receiver Nate Washington, who led the Steelers with four receptions for 58 yards, caught three of them for 51 yards on the game-tying 67-yard touchdown drive.
But it looked as though his season was over when he caught a 16-yard pass and went to the Dallas 6. At the end of the play, Washington turned the wrong way as safety Ken Hamlin held onto his leg and his ankle twisted in grotesque fashion.
Washington stayed down, and it looked as though he was seriously hurt. However, he popped up and walked off the field to loud cheers and even a surprised coach.
"I don't know how Nate got up from that deal," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "Adrenaline maybe; we will see how he feels in the morning."
Washington said in the locker room that he felt fine.
The Steelers' top-ranked defense held the Cowboys to 289 yards in total offense, the 13th consecutive opponent it has held under 300 yards. That's second-best in the NFL to start a season. The 1973 Los Angeles Rams hold the record at 14.
That, and its three interceptions -- one returned 25 yards by Deshea Townsend for the winning touchdown -- and recovered fumble (another came on a punt) explained why Townsend and Ryan Clark screamed "Best defense in the world" as they ran off the field.
"That's how we feel," Townsend said.
"No matter what the situation we're in, no matter what's going on in the game, we know we have a pretty good defense that can go out there and play with anybody."
As great as the Steelers top-ranked defense has been this season, it's hard to get coach Mike Tomlin or his players to use the word "great" when describing the unit.
"We are a work in progress in that regard," Tomlin said. "Those guys know in that room that great defenses and legendary defenses make their mark in January football. We have to get there and then they can earn those kinds of stripes."
When one mentions the success of the Steelers defense this season, they often start with the great play of the outside linebackers, Harrison and Woodley.
Harrison had a sack in yesterday's 20-13 victory against Dallas, raising his total to 15. Woodley was held without a sack, but his pressure on Romo helped to force a poor throw, which was intercepted by Townsend and returned for a touchdown with 1:40 left in the game.
"It wouldn't have been a close game if we did our job," Woodley, in his second year out of Michigan, said.
"We should have made some tackles and we should have put the quarterback on the ground more and we didn't."
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips hadn't seen Ben Roethlisberger's passer rating for the evening, a pedestrian 80.9, but he was still plenty impressed.
"He made some plays, some big scrambles," Phillips said. "Once we had him trapped along the sideline and he got away from two, three guys, and still completed a pass. That guy knows how to win."
Roethlisberger is now 15-4 against NFC teams, 2-0 against Dallas.
The five Rooney brothers will gather today in their annual year-end board meeting, with an additional agenda item -- the sale of the team.
The brothers are expected to officially sign off on a deal in which four of them are selling all or part of their shares to Dan Rooney and his son, Art Rooney II.
The agreement will be presented to the NFL's finance committee Wednesday but is not expected to be sent to a vote of approval at the NFL owner's meeting Dec. 17.
Dan Rooney and his son are still lining up investors in order to pay the brothers the amount that has been agreed upon, and until that is done the deal won't be completed.
• The Cowboys signed Alonzo Coleman from their practice squad to back up rookie Tashard Choice, who made his first start at running back. Dallas released cornerback Quincy Butler.
• Troy Polamalu intercepted his seventh pass, which leads the NFL and is a career high. He now has interceptions in four consecutive games.
• It was the Steelers' first victory in Pittsburgh against the Cowboys in 20 years.
• Wide receiver Hines Ward, who dropped one pass, nearly had his team-record streak with at least one catch in a game end but he extended it with one reception for 2 yards against Dallas to make it 159 in a row.
• The Steelers and Cowboys have played 30 times with each team winning 15.
• The Steelers started drives at the Dallas 46, 45, 22, 25 and the 28, and scored one offensive touchdown.
Steelers: QB Dennis Dixon, CB Fernando Bryant, LB Bruce Davis, OT Tony Hills, NT Scott Paxson, OT Marvel Smith, DE Orpheus Roye, DE Brett Keisel.
Cowboys: QB Brooks Bollinger, WR Miles Austin, RB Marion Barger, S Courtney Brown, CB Mike Jenkins, LB Steve Octavien, G Joe Gerger, OT Doug Free.
First Published December 8, 2008 12:00 am