Jaguars 9, Steelers 0

Published 7:41 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Jaguars 9, Steelers 0

Ben Roethlisberger may have been feeling a little sick. He certainly was a little rusty. He could have used either one as an excuse.

Instead, he took all the blame.

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Wearing protective padding around his midsection, Roethlisberger returned to Pittsburgh’s lineup Monday night, barely two weeks after an emergency appendectomy. The Jacksonville Jaguars made him pay for his courage, harassing the quarterback and stopping the defending Super Bowl champions’ nine-game winning streak with a 9-0 victory — the lowest-scoring game in Monday Night Football history.

“A lot of it was my fault,” said Roethlisberger, who was 17-of-32 for 141 yards with two interceptions. “I told Coach I’ll be OK. When I get some more practice and get on the same page with the receivers, we’ll be good.”

Pittsburgh couldn’t run either, managing only 20 yards on Willie Parker’s 11 carries. The Steelers finished with 26 yards rushing — the lowest in Bill Cowher’s 15-year tenure.

“If you come in here with the mind-set of running the ball on us, you may want to rethink that philosophy,” Jags defensive end Paul Spicer said. “It ain’t going to be that easy.”

Josh Scobee kicked three field goals for the Jaguars (2-0), who improved to 4-0 against the Steelers in September and 3-0 against them on Monday night.

The Steelers (1-1) kept it close and got the ball back with about five minutes to play, down 6-0. But Rashean Mathis intercepted Roethlisberger’s slant pass and returned it into field goal range.

Scobee kicked his third field goal, a 42-yarder with 4:26 left. He had a 31-yarder late in the third and a 32-yarder earlier in the fourth, and that’s all Jacksonville needed.

“We moved the ball well, but we did a bad job of scoring points,” quarterback Byron Leftwich said. “To move to the next level, we’ve got to have more than nine points. But, we played a tough team, man, the Super Bowl champs.”

Mathis picked off another one with 1:44 remaining, sending Roethlisberger walking slowly to the bench. Mathis also sealed last year’s victory at Pittsburgh, intercepting a pass in overtime and returning it 41 yards.

The shutout was Jacksonville’s first since December 2003 against Houston. It also was the fifth time the defending Super Bowl champions have been shut out; the 1980 Steelers were blanked once, and the 1981 Raiders were shut out three times.

“That’s definitely one of the best defensive performances that I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Jags running back Fred Taylor said.

Roethlisberger might agree. He threw his hands up in frustration after his first interception, then walked off the field with his hands on his side following his next possession, when he took a jolting shot to his midsection after throwing a pass.

He was sacked twice and knocked down several more times.

Cowher might be questioned for sending Roethlisberger out against Jacksonville’s aggressive defense — especially after his star quarterback woke up feeling sick Sunday and had a fever earlier Monday — but he wanted to get him ready for next week’s game against division rival Cincinnati.

“I forgot how this feeling is,” Roethlisberger said of losing for the first time since Dec. 4, 2005. “It’s not a fun feeling.”

The Jaguars spent the closing minutes celebrating their first Monday night win since 2001, improving to 7-2 in the league’s most coveted time slot. It marked a new low for scoring on a Monday night, however, dipping below the San Francisco 49ers’ 7-3 win over the New York Giants in 1990.

The Jaguars had plenty of bright spots, anyway.

Leftwich completed 26 of 39 passes for 260 yards. Taylor, whose best game came against the Steelers in 2000, ran 22 times for 92 yards and caught three passes for 29 yards.

Reggie Williams and Matt Jones were even more impressive, combining for 14 catches for 168 yards.

“Maybe people will start talking about us or something,” Leftwich said.

Roethlisberger has been talked about much of the offseason. He nearly died in a June 12 motorcycle accident, but recovered in time to report for training camp. Then he had the appendectomy Sept. 3 and sat out Pittsburgh’s opener. He returned to see his team shut out for the first time since December 2003 against the New York Jets.

“A loss is a loss,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t care how you do it. You play as bad as I did, that’s how you get shut out.”

Notes: The Steelers had no first downs rushing. … The Jags have won 10 of their last 12 games. … The Jags had three players leave with injuries: DE Marcellus Wiley (groin), WR Chad Owens (ribs) and FB Derrick Wimbush (knee).