"I tried to make something happen, and it didn't," Steelers receiver
Yancey Thigpen said of one of his drops. "After that things just corn- balled."
On their 10th possession, however, the Steelers drove 83 yards to score the game's first touchdown, which came on an 18-yard reception by Andre Hastings. And in not quite two minutes, after Randall Cunningham threw a pass that was intercepted by Darren Perry, the Steelers put the game away with a 3-yard touchdown run by John L. Williams.
"Obviously it wasn't pretty at times, but I guess that's become our middle name in terms of victories," Cowher said. "You've got to give them a lot of credit. They played hard, but we persevered."
The marvelous Steelers defense also appeared to wear on the Eagles near the end of the game. They had the ball for only 3 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter, when they managed a solitary first down rushing.
"We have a group of guys on defense that has really matured," said Dom Capers, the Steelers' defensive coordinator, who might be the next assistant moving on to a head-coaching job next season.
Raising their season sack total to 53, the Steelers set a team record.
"One of the things the pressure has done for us is it has enabled us to
put the offense in a position where they play more defensively," Capers said.
"You noticed today that the Eagles stayed with their regular personnel the whole game until the end. They did not substitute a third wide receiver into the game, and they did that for blocking purposes.
"They . . . ran two- and three-receiver routes. They changed the game plan that they'd run the last few weeks. It's obviously because of our
Maybe so, but it hardly looked as though any great pressure forced Cunningham into throwing his fifth straight late-game interception.
"We saw that formation and play on film," said Steelers cornerback Rod Woodson. "After they ran it in the first quarter, I told Darren that if they came out in that again, I'd be waiting on the outside and for him to cover the seam. That's where Randall threw the ball."
"I think Cunningham wanted to go to the other side, to Calvin Williams," Perry said, "but Woodson had that guy covered up, so he came to me. I'm glad he did."
Of his first NFL touchdown catch, Hastings explained: "The Eagles came with a blitz. Neil (O'Donnell) made an audible, and usually on that play he goes to the other side. But this time he came to my side, and he made a great
throw. In fact, two times on that (83-yard) drive, he made two excellent throws to me."
The Steelers also had a number of players who filled in admirably for injured teammates, and a number of players, such as Woodson, who played hurt.
"You need that when you're going down the stretch," said Tim McKyer, the Steelers' backup cornerback. "You never know when a guy can go down. You have to have guys who can come in and can step up and play, and we have guys who can do that."
The Steelers also managed to knock off the Eagles despite the psychological burden of knowing they would play Cleveland - an old rival they had seen beat the Cowboys in Dallas one day earlier - for the division championship next week.
"It's going to be great fun with what's at stake," Woodson said. "It's always been a good game when nothing was at stake, so it's only going to be better."
Maybe even pretty.