Linebacker Joey Porter wasted little time establishing his comeback from knee surgery.
Porter hurt the Dolphins early by sacking Daunte Culpepper and late by intercepting a Culpepper pass and returning it 42 yards for the touchdown that secured the Steelers' 28-17 victory last night.
Porter then planted a kiss on coach Bill Cowher's neck on the sideline. It was reminiscent of the kiss Cowher put on quarterback Kordell Stewart in Baltimore in 1997.
"That's my guy there," Porter said about his rather affectionate greeting for Cowher. "We're close, no matter what you guys say."
"That was a great play by him," Cowher said when asked about the smooch from Porter. He paused, then added: "It was better than the last time, when I initiated it. To be honest with you, I'm fine with it."
Wide receiver Hines Ward, when asked if the kiss-after-touchdown might start a trend among the players, wasn't ready to make that type of commitment.
"I'm not that close with coach Cowher," Ward said, laughing.
Earlier in the game, on the first play of Miami's second series, Porter bounced in from the right side of the defense, flipped easily past Darian Barnes' attempted block and dropped Culpepper for a 6-yard loss.Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Bill Cowher celebrates with Joey Porter after Porter sealed the Steelers' victory with an interception return in the fourth quarter.
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Postgame commentary from the Steelers Thursday night:
It was Porter's 55th career sack, lifting him past Greg Lloyd and into fifth place on the Steelers' career list.
Hines Ward's pulled hamstring, which kept him out nearly the entire preseason, wasn't a problem last night.
Ward scored the Steelers' second touchdown, grabbing a 7-yard pass from Batch and finished with five catches for 53 yards.
"I made it through the whole game," Ward said, then followed wryly, "who needs training camp anyway?"
Ward was bottled up early by the Dolphins' defense. In fact, his touchdown catch, which came with 1:56 left in the second quarter, was his first reception of the game.
But considering there was some concern as to how Ward would recover from the injury, his first game was a solid effort.
"I'm not 100 percent but I'm pretty close," he said. "I owe a lot to our training staff."
Catch The Bus
Before the kickoff, a yellow school bus pulled into the stadium from the North end zone with a big sign proclaiming "The Bus" and depositing one passenger, Jerome Bettis.
Bettis ran onto the field one more time, twirling a Terrible Towel. He stopped, picked some blades of grass and stuffed them into his pocket. Wearing a suit as part of his new duties for NBC-TV, Bettis walked over to the Steelers' bench, where he hugged coach Bill Cowher and halfbacks Verron Haynes and Willie Parker.
During warm-ups, Bettis walked the field and hugged many of his former teammates, including starting quarterback Charlie Batch. Bettis will honor Batch through his Bus Stops Here Foundation with a humanitarian award at a dinner at Heinz Field tonight.
Second-year wide receiver Nate Washington scored his first NFL touchdown -- and the Steelers' first touchdown of 2006 -- when he hauled in 27-yard pass from Batch on the second play of the second quarter to put the Steelers up, 7-0.
"It feels great," said Washington, who played at tiny Tiffin University near Toledo, Ohio. "I just can't wait to see my mom to see what she says."
Washington, who plays when the Steelers use three-receiver formations, caught two passes for 32 yards.
Roger Goodell attended his first game as NFL commissioner last night, and, for the first time, teams played with a game ball that included the new commissioner's name. Goodell officially replaced the retired Paul Tagliabue Friday.
A banner night
Hall of Famers Lynn Swann, Franco Harris and Mel Blount joined former teammate L.C. Greenwood in a pregame ceremony in which five banners were unfurled, each representing a Steelers Super Bowl victory.
Bryant McFadden and Ricardo Colclough rotated as the third cornerback in the Steelers' passing defenses. ... Cornerback Ike Taylor shadowed Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers throughout the game. ... Andre Goodman replaced injured Travis Daniels as the starting right cornerback for Miami. ... The Steelers and Dolphins met for only the second time in the past eight seasons and for the first time in Pittsburgh in 12 years. ... Miami has eight games against teams that lost at least 10 times last season. ... Before last night, the Steelers were 1-7 on Thursdays since the NFL merger in 1970. ... Sports artist Malcom Farley painted on the sideline before the game and continued during the game from a private box. ... Among the celebrities on the sideline before the game was pro golfer and Greensburg native Rocco Mediate. ... The crowd of 64,927 was the third largest in Steelers history.
Coach Bill Cowher pulled a surprise when he made rookie wide receiver Willie Reid inactive for the game, even though he announced Saturday that Reid would return punts. Rookie Santonio Holmes and Ricardo Colclough rotated returning punts.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, also inactive, was on the sideline with his teammates four days after his appendectomy.
The rest of the inactives: Steelers -- running back Patrick Cobbs, linebacker Rian Wallace, center Marvin Philip, offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu, offensive tackle Willie Colon, tight end Jerame Tuman. Dolphins -- cornerback Travis Daniels, defensive tackle Frederick Evans, offensive guard Joe Berger, center Wade Smith, offensive tackle Anthony Alabi, defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina, defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, quarterback Cleo Lemon.Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
A Steelers fan walks by late Mayor Bob O'Connor's seat before the start of the game yesterday.
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