PITTSBURGH -- It's remarkable what a relatively unimportant touchdown late in a meaningless exhibition game can do for a team's state of mind.
Third-team quarterback Brian St. Pierre led a 70-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter that was capped by his 2-point conversion pass to fullback Wes Ours, and the Pittsburgh Steelers rallied to beat the Dallas Cowboys 15-14 Thursday night.
|Plaxico Burress evades Derek Ross and hauls in a 25-yard touchdown pass.(AP)|
Dante Brown, a free agent rookie running back from Memphis, scored on an 18-yard run on fourth-and-1 to get the Steelers (1-2) within 14-13. St. Pierre, a fifth-round draft pick out of Boston College, prevented their third consecutive preseason loss by finding Ours in the right flat on the go-ahead conversion pass with 4:11 to play.
Steelers coach Bill Cowher dislikes playing overtime in the preseason, so he usually goes for the 2-point conversion in such situations.
"That's Coach Cowher's mentality there," St. Pierre said. "I'm glad he did. I think everybody in the huddle wanted to go for it."
So did the starters on the sidelines. Wide receiver Hines Ward ran onto the field to congratulate the backups following the decisive drive.
"We know this is the preseason, but you don't want to get the taste of losing in your mouth," Ward said.
By winning, the Steelers avoided going 0-3 in what so far has been their worst training camp in Cowher's 12 seasons at coach. They haven't had a winless preseason since they were 0-5 in 1965.
Despite another uninspiring effort by their starters, who have yet to clearly outplay another team's regulars, the Steelers felt better after winning.
The Steelers' offensive starters did outgain the Cowboys' regulars, 190-113, with much of the yardage coming on an 85-yard drive in the second quarter that easily was Pittsburgh's best of the preseason.
"I know everybody expects us to go out there and go boom, boom, boom and score 40 points every time out," Burress said. "But we were able to go out and convert some third downs and get a good drive going."
Before the winning drive, Cowher appeared to be getting agitated. As punter Josh Miller squibbed a 30-yard punt along the Steelers' sidelines late in the third quarter, a displeased Cowher swatted disgustedly at the ball. The punt came on a fourth-and-43 play created by a 16-yard sack of backup quarterback Charlie Batch, and the punt didn't even reach the first-down marker.
Still, Cowher was more upbeat than he was following a 21-16 loss Saturday to the Philadelphia Eagles, saying, "We haven't been on top yet, but we took a step forward."
The Cowboys (1-2) put together long touchdown drives in each half -- one with Quincy Carter at quarterback and the other with Chad Hutchinson -- and led 14-7 before St. Pierre led the winning drive with third-string players on the field for both teams.
Neither Carter, who got the start, nor Hutchinson took a clear-cut lead in the Cowboys' quarterback derby. Carter was 8-of-12 for 67 yards and carried two times for 14 yards, while Hutchinson was 8-of-16 for 86 yards.
Cowboys coach Bill Parcells isn't ready yet to choose a starter, but may be by early next week.
"I want to take a good look at films before I decide anything," he said. "That's why I don't want to go into detail now. Everything is subject to change."
Carter was 5-for-6 during a 74-yard drive that ended with his 8-yard touchdown pass to Joey Galloway on third-and-8 midway through the second quarter. Galloway made five catches for 48 yards.
Hutchinson, the former St. Louis Cardinals' first-round draft pick, came on late in the second quarter and directed a 73-yard drive finished off by Adrian Murrell's 3-yard scoring run on third-and-2 in the third quarter. Murrell led all rushers with 24 yards on six carries.
"I made some good plays and I made some not-so-good plays," Hutchinson said. "I know what's at stake here. But I wasn't thinking about that when I was on the field, I was just trying to make plays."
The Cowboys played without wide receiver Antonio Bryant (quadriceps), while Steelers linebacker Jason Gildon (knee) sat out. Cowboys guard Larry Allen missed the team plane to Pittsburgh to attend to a family matter and didn't start, but came on after several series.
"Those things happen sometimes," Parcells said. "The most important thing is he got here and played quite a bit."
Jerome Bettis, benched the day before by Cowher in a surprise move, carried three times for 18 yards. Amos Zereoue, who replaces him as the starter, was held to 12 yards on seven carries and has only 30 yards on 13 carries in the preseason. Batch took over for Maddox and was 8-of-16 for 58 yards.
The Associated Press News Service
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