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 LANDOVER, Md. (AP) -A blocked punt helped Pittsburgh overcome a botched onside kick and an interception, and Ben Roethlisberger's 1-yard sneak gave the Steelers a 10-6 halftime lead over the Washington Redskins in a defensive struggle Monday night.
Neither team was able to generate much offense, combining for 156 yards in the first half. The defenses combined for seven sacks, four by Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger was 5-of-17 for 50 yards and an interception. Washington's Jason Campbell was 8-of-15 for 47 yards.
NFL's leading rusher, gained only 36 yards by halftime - and 22 came on one run. On the last play of the first quarter, he was dropped for a 1-yard loss and limped to the sideline with what the team said was a bruised knee, but he returned during the Redskins' next possession.
Washington led 6-0 after about 5 minutes, thanks to two field goals by Shaun Suisham after three-and-out drives that began inside Pittsburgh's 40.
Pittsburgh got on the scoreboard on Jeff Reed's 35-yard field goal with about 8 minutes left in the first half. The big play on that drive? A 43-yard pass interference call on cornerback Carlos Rogers while trying to cover Hines Ward.
The Steelers went ahead on Roethlisberger's plunge at the end of a 13-yard drive. The TD was set up when Ryan Plackemeier's punt was blocked by Andre Frazier and recovered by William Gay, giving Pittsburgh the ball at Washington's 13.
The Steelers' gamble on the opening kickoff failed miserably. Alfred Fincher was basically unchallenged as he recovered the ball for the Redskins, who also benefited from a 5-yard penalty for offsides and began the game on Pittsburgh's 36.
The Steelers stopped Portis on third-and-2, forcing Washington to settle for Suisham's 44-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
ackle Cornelius Griffin.
That gave Washington the ball at Pittsburgh's 30. Again, the Steelers limited the Redskins to three-and-out, and Suisham's 43-yard kick put the hosts ahead 6-0.
Eventually, each of Washington's first four drives pushed into Pittsburgh territory - but resulted only in those two kicks. Overall, all but four plays in the first quarter were in Steelers territory.
That's in part because the Steelers had no success on offense. Roethlisberger went 1-of-8 for 9 yards, the interception and a sack in the first quarter.
Steelers running back Willie Parker, sidelined for about a month with a knee injury, started and carried for a yard on Pittsburgh's first play from scrimmage. Receiver Santonio Holmes, benched last weekend after being charged with a marijuana-related offense, also was back on the field for the Steelers - and the first pass thrown his way fell to the ground.
Pittsburgh's second possession ended with a sack by Washington defensive end Demetric Evans, starting in place of the injured Jason Taylor. Evans also sacked Roethlisberger on third-and-2 at Washington's 16 in the second quarter, leaving the Steelers to have Reed kick his field goal.
It was the first presidential election-eve NFL game hosted by Washington since 1984, and broadcaster ESPN taped interviews with candidates Barack Obama and John McCain that were to be shown at halftime.
as holding a white towel with a picture of Obama's face. Several spectators held homemade signs making reference to Tuesday's doings, including one that read, ``Elect the Redskins Super Bowl Champions'' and another that touted ``Zorn for President.''
There also were thousands of Steelers supporters in the crowd, as evidenced by the yellow Terrible Towels dotting the stands. The Steelers themselves noticed - their defense was motioning to the crowd to make noise when Washington was facing a third down in the first quarter.
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