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Pittsburgh at St. Louis

Davenport fills in, steps up; Steelers prevail, stay on atop AFC North

CBSSports.com wire reports

ST. LOUIS -- Willie Parker's season ended after his first carry, and the Pittsburgh Steelers will miss the NFL's leading rusher if they get to the playoffs. But they don't miss him yet.

Najeh Davenport, a career backup running back with typical non-descript statistics, has two huge games since entering the league as a fourth-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2002. Both have come against the St. Louis Rams, with Davenport's two-touchdown, 123-yard rushing effort pacing a 41-24 victory on Thursday night.

"I took it upon myself to put the offense on my back and carry it," Davenport said. "He's our guy, he's our breadwinner. Not having him, everyone has to pick it up a level."

Parker was hurt in the first quarter, giving the Steelers plenty of time to adjust to the new reality.

"Our heart goes out to him because he's a competitor, he's a warrior," coach Mike Tomlin said. "As a team, we're not going to throw a pity party. It's part of the game, people get hurt, we'll adapt and improvise and move forward."

The Steelers' top-rated defense was porous again, yet it made enough stops to help Pittsburgh (10-5) out of a late-season swoon and move one step closer to the playoffs. They're still thinking beyond just a playoff berth, though.

"With Willie down it's going to take something away from us," said Nate Washington, who caught two touchdown passes. "If we dwell on Willie being down it's going to be that much tougher for us to get to (the Super Bowl), and we don't need anything else making it hard for us."

Isaac Bruce caught a 12-yard touchdown pass and moved into third place on the career yards receiving list, moving ahead of James Lofton, for the Rams. Marc Bulger threw three touchdown passes but was intercepted twice, and Ike Taylor's 51-yard return on an overthrown ball on 4th-and-10 with 3:46 to go put the game out of reach.

Wide receiver Torry Holt was caught on cameras screaming at coach Scott Linehan after the interception.

"It's not a big deal, not to me," Linehan said. "It something said in the heat of the battle to his coach and it's over as far as I'm concerned."

Bulger said and Linehan had been talking about backup Gus Frerotte taking over before Holt started yelling at the coach.

"I honestly don't know what they were arguing about," Bulger said. "My discussion had nothing to do with Torry unless he was really upset I was going out of the game."

Pittsburgh had taken a 10-point lead on a 29-yard field goal by Jeff Reed only seven plays earlier.

The only other highlight for the Rams (3-12) was retiring Marshall Faulk's No. 28 jersey at halftime of the Rams' home finale. Bruce, who passed Marvin Harrison last week on the yardage list, caught seven passes for 87 yards and has 940 career receptions, tied for sixth with Art Monk.

"I hear the names," Bruce said. "Next Sunday night when the season is over for us, I'll go back and I'll just go look at it."

St. Louis finished 1-7 at home and had three games blacked out because it didn't sell out, and in each of the last two weeks there have been nearly as many visitors as home fans in the Edward Jones Dome.

Parker, who has 1,316 yards, limped off the field with a broken bone in his lower right leg in the first quarter after only one carry for minus-1 yard. Davenport eased any worries with a game that rivaled his 178-yard effort for the Packers against the Rams, in a 45-17 Monday Night victory in 2004. He was filling in for Ahman Green at the time.

"They just executed," Linehan said. "It didn't matter who was in there."

Ben Roethlisberger was 16-for-20 for 261 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions for the Steelers, who had lost three of five to fall into a tie with the Browns for the AFC North lead. Roethlisberger had his first 200-yard passing effort in five games by halftime, helping to revive a struggling offense.

He hit Santonio Holmes for an 83-yard gain on the Steelers' first drive, helping the Steelers recover from starting at their own 4 after Allen Rossum fumbled on a punt return.

"We felt we could take some shots down the field," Roethlisberger said. "Our receivers, a lot of people don't give them credit, but they're pretty fast and they got down the field well."

The Steelers, 8-8 last season, can clinch the division with a Cleveland loss at Cincinnati on Sunday. They also can clinch a playoff berth if the Titans lose to the Jets.

Davenport entered the game with 349 yards, a 4.9-yard average and two touchdowns as Parker's backup. His best game before Thursday came against the Seahawks when he had 58 yards rushing on seven carries and two touchdowns.

Bulger was 18-for-35 for 208 yards and Steven Jackson had 85 yards on 12 carries for the Rams, who had 316 yards total offense.


  • Bulger has 105 touchdown passes, pulling out of a tie for fourth with Kurt Warner for fourth on the Rams' career list.
  • Hines Ward had six catches for 59 yards, passing John Stallworth for the Steelers' career lead in yards receiving. He has 8,741, 18 more than Stallworth.
  • The Steelers are 15-2 against NFC opponents dating to 2003. This was their first game in St. Louis since 1979.
  • The Rams have been outscored 130-40 in the fourth quarter.
Copyright 2016 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Najeh Davenport's two-touchdown game makes Big Ben happy about the Steelers' playoff chances.
Najeh Davenport's two-touchdown game makes Big Ben happy about the Steelers' playoff chances. (AP)


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Related Links
Thurs. Dec. 20Final
St. Louis
Scoring Summary
TDNate Washington, 17 Yd pass from Ben Roethlisberger (Jeff Reed kick is good), 10:52. Drive: 4 plays, 96 yards in 2:27.
TDSteven Jackson, 12 Yd pass from Marc Bulger (Jeff Wilkins kick is good), 7:14. Drive: 6 plays, 59 yards in 3:38.
FGJeff Reed 21 Yd, 14:57. Drive: 13 plays, 69 yards in 7:17.
TDIsaac Bruce, 12 Yd pass from Marc Bulger (Jeff Wilkins kick is good), 13:20. Drive: 4 plays, 50 yards in 1:37.
TDNate Washington, 33 Yd pass from Ben Roethlisberger (Jeff Reed kick is good), 10:39. Drive: 5 plays, 65 yards in 2:41.
TDNajeh Davenport, 12 Yd pass from Ben Roethlisberger (Jeff Reed kick is good), 1:57. Drive: 10 plays, 78 yards in 6:27.
FGJeff Wilkins 52 Yd, 1:01. Drive: 6 plays, 46 yards in 0:56.
TDNajeh Davenport, 1 Yd run (Jeff Reed kick is good), 9:22. Drive: 10 plays, 69 yards in 5:38.
TDDrew Bennett, 23 Yd pass from Marc Bulger (Jeff Wilkins kick is good), 3:00. Drive: 11 plays, 81 yards in 6:22.
FGJeff Reed 29 Yd, 4:38. Drive: 13 plays, 69 yards in 7:39.
TDIke Taylor, 51 Yd interception return (Jeff Reed kick is good), 3:46.
Players of the Game

I. Bruce
Rec 7
Yds 87
Avg 12.4
TD 1

B. Roethlisberger
Att 20
Comp 16
Yds 261
TD 3
B. Roethlisberger16/2026130
D. Sepulveda1/13200
N. Davenport24123118
C. Davis628012
B. Roethlisberger21109
S. Holmes1707
W. Parker1-10-1
C. Batch3-200
S. Holmes4133083
H. Ward659019
N. Washington250233
N. Davenport244132
H. Miller1707
C. Davis2008
St. Louis
M. Bulger18/3520832
G. Frerotte3/72700
S. Jackson1285036
A. Pittman2503
M. Bulger1000
I. Bruce787121
R. McMichael651014
T. Holt341019
D. Bennett235123
S. Jackson321112
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
DEN 3 Final
SD 23
TB 19 Final
SF 21
NYJ 6 Final
TEN 10
BAL 6 Final
SEA 27
ATL 27 Final
ARI 30
PHI 38 Final
NO 23
MIA 7 Final
NE 28
WAS 32 Final
MIN 21
OAK 11 Final
JAC 49
HOU 15 Final
IND 38
KC 20 Final
DET 25
CLE 14 Final
CIN 19
GB 7 Final
CHI 35
NYG 38 Final
BUF 21
DAL 20 Final
CAR 13