Steelers’ defense honors LeBeau’s NFL anniversary

Published 2:31 am Friday, November 21, 2008

The Steelers honored defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau with a pregame ceremony for his 50 years as an NFL coach and player. His league-best defense found the best possible way to pay tribute to him.

The Steelers limited the depleted Bengals to six first downs following an early touchdown drive and found just enough offense themselves amid the snow flurries to control the clock behind Ben Roethlisberger and beat Cincinnati 27-10 on Thursday night.

Pittsburgh (8-3) wasn’t dominating — except defensively — in winning its fifth in a row over Cincinnati (1-9-1), its longest streak since an eight-game run in the early 1990s. The Steelers trailed 7-0 until Roethlisberger threw a 3-yard pass to tight end Heath Miller, their first touchdown in more than seven quarters, and didn’t take control until backup running backs Mewelde Moore and Gary Russell led a third-quarter drive that made it 20-7.

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‘‘It just felt good to score,’’ Roethlisberger said.

For the Steelers’ defense, it felt good to throttle Cincinnati following an early TD drive.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, under constant pressure from a Pittsburgh defense that leads the NFL in almost every major statistical category, was below 100 yards passing until a short drive in the fourth quarter ended with Shayne Graham’s 26-yard field goal. Fitzpatrick finished 20-of-37 for 168 yards, but the Bengals were outgained 364-208.

‘‘It’s definitely a big honor for him,’’ linebacker LaMarr Woodley said of LeBeau, one of the league’s top defensive minds and a former Bengals head coach. ‘‘You honor him and you want to go out there and win that game for him.’’

Not having wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco, the former Chad Johnson, made it a lot harder for the Bengals. He was deactivated for violating team rules following an apparent flare-up at a team meeting, though coach Marvin Lewis wouldn’t explain what Ocho Cinco did.