Bulger passed for 375 yards and a touchdown in his Pittsburgh homecoming and third-string running back Arlen Harris ran for three touchdowns in his first NFL start, leading the Rams past the slumping Steelers 33-21 Sunday.
The Rams (5-2) won their fourth in a row and, just as significantly, won on the road for only the second time in 11 games -- and in a city where they were 0-4 since 1971. Their only road victory last season was at Arizona.
"It's not about where I'm from, it's about our team winning on the road. We beat a good team in a tough environment," said Bulger, a former Pittsburgh high school star. "It's a relief, because we know how hard it is to win on the road. If you can win in a tough place like Pittsburgh, you know you can win on the road."
The Steelers (2-5) wasted two big plays by Antwaan Randle El, including an 84-yard punt return touchdown, to drop their fourth straight and third in a row at home.
The Steelers' start is their worst since they were 1-6 in 1988, en route to a 5-11 finish. They fell two games behind AFC North leader Baltimore and dropped into last place in the division.
"We have a lot of talent on this team and we're not getting it done," linebacker Joey Porter said.
Bulger, who played at the same high school that produced Dan Marino, shook off a steady, chilly rain and the hoopla surrounding the 1,000th game in Steelers history. He set the tone on the Rams' first official play from scrimmage, hitting NFL receiving leader Torry Holt in stride for 48 yards.
"We could probably run our routes with our eyes closed, the way we're clicking," said Holt, who made seven catches for 174 yards.
Holt caught a 36-yard touchdown pass three plays later, and the Rams were up 7-0 almost before the former Steelers stars recognized before the game had left the sideline.
"We talked about taking the same enthusiasm, commitment and excitement we have at home and try to make it a home game," coach Mike Martz said.
The Steelers rallied to lead briefly at 21-20 after Tommy Maddox threw two touchdown passes to Hines Ward. But Harris, an undrafted rookie free agent, scored from the 9 to put the Rams up 27-21 late in the third quarter. The 70-yard drive was highlighted by Bulger's completions of 30 yards to Brandon Manumaleuna and 21 yards to Holt.
Harris, another former Pennsylvania high school star who is filling in for injured Marshall Faulk and Lamar Gordon, averaged only 2.4 yards while gaining 81 yards. But he has 166 yards in his last two games.
"It's all happened so fast, to have an opportunity to be here and play on a team like this," said Harris, who didn't play last season after transferring from Virginia to Hofstra.
Harris scored again from the 9 midway through the fourth quarter after a holding call on Pittsburgh's Jason Gildon on Jeff Wilkins' field goal gave St. Louis a first down.
"That's brave of them, to take points off the board," Porter said. "That shows a lot of confidence, but they got it done and got more points."
Despite St. Louis' huge advantages in almost every statistic -- including 2-to-1 in time of possession and Bulger outpassing Maddox 375-159 -- the Rams twice settled for field goals after driving to first downs inside the Pittsburgh 5.
The Steelers' problem was a familiar one as they again failed to sustain drives, going 1-for-10 on third down conversions and having five series last less than a minute. Jerome Bettis made his first start of the season to try to get the NFL's 28th-ranked rushing game going, but was held to 42 yards on 12 carries. Pittsburgh was outgained 448-245.
Maddox (12-of-18) threw two touchdown passes after going 15 quarters without one, but also was intercepted three times, giving him 11 in seven games.
Asked about the Steelers' confidence, Ward didn't exactly give a reassuring answer, saying, "I don't know. There's a lot of question marks. It's hard to say. It's frustrating."
- Bulger, 11-2 as the Rams' starter, played in Pittsburgh for the first time since throwing for a school-record six touchdowns and 409 yards in West Virginia's 52-14 victory over Pitt in 1998.
- The Steelers have allowed 96 points in their last three home games.
- Pittsburgh is the seventh NFL team and the first from the AFC to play 1,000 games.
- Randle El's 32-yard run on a direct snap led to Ward's second touchdown catch, a 22-yarder that gave the Steelers their only lead.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2003, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved