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01-24-2011, 02:48 AM
Steelers ready for 7th Super Bowl victory
January 24, 2011 - By Buck Frank email@example.com
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PITTSBURGH - Steelers 73-year-old defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau sang a familiar tune as he came through the Heinz Field tunnel leading to the team's locker room.
"Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl,'' LeBeau chanted as backup linebacker Keyaron Fox supplemented him with, "Here we go.''
The Steelers, behind a dominating first-half appearance by both the offense and LeBeau's defense, are going to the Super Bowl for the eighth time following a 24-19 too-close-for-comfort victory over the New York Jets Sunday night in the AFC Championship Game before a Pittsburgh-record crowd of 66,662.
The Steelers, who own an NFL-record six Lombardi Trophies, will try for No. 7 against the NFC champion Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
"Can't wait! Can't wait,'' several Steelers, including safety Ryan Clark, shouted as they entered the locker room after hoisting the Lamar Hunt Trophy as champions of the AFC for the third time in six seasons.
They were mocking Jets linebacker Bart Scott, who had shouted the same words after his team upset the New England Patriots in the divisional round last week.
"[The Jets] were quiet all week until about Friday,'' Clark said. "They tried to stir things up with me saying we have six Super Bowl trophies. But if we go and win another one in two weeks, they'll never have to hear me say that again, because we will have seven.''
To win their seventh, the Steelers will need to beat another sixth seed, like the Jets. The Packers won the NFC Championship Game earlier Sunday, 21-14, over the Chicago Bears for their third straight road playoff win.
The Steelers and Packers met at Heinz Field last season with the Steelers pulling out a 37-36 victory on the game's final play.
"The Packers are a great team,'' Steelers receiver Hines Ward said. "It will be a fun matchup.''
It appeared as though the Steelers were going to trounce their way to Texas by jumping out to a 24-0 lead in the second quarter, but the Jets, behind their confident coach Rex Ryan, didn't quit and needed just one defensive stop in the final 3 minutes to have a chance at pulling off the biggest comeback in AFC title game history.
But with the Steelers facing a third-and-6 at the 2-minute warning and the Jets having used all of their timeouts, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger fired a first-down pass to rookie Antonio Brown.
The Steelers then kneeled with the ball three times to run out the clock.
"There are 32 teams that start this journey, and there are two left,'' said 38-year-old Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, the first coach in NFL history to take two teams to the Super Bowl before the age of 40. "And we are fortunate enough to be one of them. It's awesome.''
The Steelers, who lost to the Jets, 22-17, at Heinz Field on Dec. 19, ran their way to their big first-half lead. Rashard Mendenhall gained 95 of his 121 yards in the first half as the Steelers out-rushed the usually strong running Jets, 135-1.
The Steelers scored on their opening possession of the game, as the Jets did in the first meeting, but the Steelers took nearly 9 minutes more to accomplish the feat.
Brad Smith took back the opening kickoff for a touchdown in the first matchup, but the Jets won the coin toss and decided to kick off to the Steelers, who then used up 9:06 to travel 66 yards in 15 plays.
Mendenhall scored from the 1-yard line to give the Steelers a 7-0 advantage after they converted three third downs.
Roethlisberger was injured on the drive when he received a knee to his thigh, but he stayed in the game. His play seemed to be affected by the injury as he ended up completing just 10 passes for 133 yards and was intercepted twice.
"That's us,'' Roethlisberger said. "It's not always pretty, but somehow we find a way to get it done.''
Center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a scary ankle injury on the drive, and Doug Legursky replaced him on Mendenhall's touchdown run and played the rest of the game.
The Steelers threatened to score at the beginning of the second quarter, but Roethlisberger's pass to Mendenhall on fourth-and-1 at the Jets' 32-yard line was intercepted by New York's Bryan Thomas. It ended Roethlisberger's streak of 197 pass attempts without a pick.
But the Steelers got the ball back quickly and drove down the field, thanks to a 35-yard run by Mendenhall and 8- and 13-yard runs by Isaac Redman. A Shaun Suisham 20-yard field goal increased the Steelers' lead to 10-0.
The Steelers were not done in the first half, though. After the Jets' third punt of the first half, they drove 66 yards in seven plays and gained a 17-0 lead on Roethlisberger's 2-yard keeper.
The first-half onslaught continued when Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor stripped the ball from Mark Sanchez on a corner blitz, and William Gay scooped up the ball and trotted 19 yards to build the lead to 24-0.
"When you put points on the board as a defense, it's usually always big,'' Clark said. "You usually win those games. We have to build on that.''
But the Steelers didn't build on the Gay touchdown. In fact, they didn't score any points the rest of the game.
The Jets were unfazed by the 24-0 deficit and got a Nick Folk field goal before halftime. They immediately cut the score to 24-10 on a 45-yard Sanchez-to-Santonio Holmes touchdown pass less than 3 minutes into the second half. Jets safety Brodney Pool then intercepted a Roethlisberger pass at the New York 5-yard line, but the Steelers still held a two-touchdown lead entering the final quarter.
The Jets then marched 80 yards at the beginning of the fourth and ate up 8:06 of the clock but couldn't get the ball into the end zone. LaDainian Tomlinson was stopped on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line to hand the ball over to the Steelers with 7:50 remaining.
But Roethlisberger fumbled the ensuing snap, couldn't get out of the end zone and was pounced on for a safety by New York defensive end Mike DeVito that cut the Steelers' lead to 24-12. The Jets didn't stop there, taking the free kick and marching 58 yards in 10 plays to cut the lead to 24:19 with 3:06 left on a 4-yard pass from Sanchez to Jerricho Cotchery.
"We just need to execute better,'' Steelers linebacker James Harrison said. "[The Jets] came out and played a lot better than they did in the first half. They just had a better second half than we anticipated.''
The Steelers, though, received a 27-yard kickoff return from Brown and then picked up a first down on a pass to tight end Heath Miller. The third-and-6 pass to Brown eventually set off a fireworks display at Heinz Field, an unlikely scenario back in September when Roethlisberger was serving a four-game suspension.
"It took a lot of mountain men to overcome that big mountain,'' said Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel, sporting his long beard. "And now we get to go to the big dance.''
01-24-2011, 02:49 AM
Bires: Not pretty, but effective
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By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
Monday January 24, 2011 12:05 AM
PITTSBURGH — What a sight it was late Sunday night on the North Shore as 66,000 or so fanatical football fans celebrated another landmark moment in Steelers history.
As the NFL set up a stage at midfield for the Lamar Hunt Trophy presentation, the Steelers donned their AFC championship hats and T-shirts. They congratulated each other with joyous bear hugs. A few of them even took a victory lap at Heinz Field and exchanged high-fives with their adoring fans.
“This is what the Steelers do,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said.
Since Roethlisberger became a Steeler, making it to the Super Bowl is what the Steelers have done as well as anyone in the league. After holding off the New York Jets, 24-19 in the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers are going back to the Super Bowl for the third time since they took Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft. During that span, only the Tom Brady Bunch in New England has played in as many Super Bowls.
The Steelers did it the hard way this year, overcoming a ton of adversity. But along the way, they never wavered.
They followed the company line established by coach Mike Tomlin to a tee.
“The standard is the standard,” linebacker James Farrior said of his coach’s favorite saying. “Not only does he say that, he has everybody believing that. We all believe that no matter who’s in the game, the standard is the standard. You still have to play at a high level. That’s what we believe in.”
In beating and finally shutting up the loud-mouth Jets whose coach predicted a Super Bowl title, the Steelers didn’t always play at a high level.
Roethlisberger, for example, had a lowly 35.5 passer rating. He threw two interceptions. He didn’t throw for any touchdown passes. He only threw for 133 yards. He lost a fumble. Yet, he picked up critical yardage on a few scrambles and ran for a score.
There were unlikely heroes, too.
There was versatile lineman Doug Legursky who filled in for injured center Maurkice Pouncey.
And there was cornerback William Gay, who started in place of Bryant McFadden who’s been bothered by an abdominal problem in recent weeks. It was Gay who scored what proved to be winning touchdown after returning a fumble 19 yards in the second quarter.
“It’s not always pretty,” Roethlisberger said. “But that’s the Pittsburgh Steelers. Some how, we find a way to get the job done.”
By getting done Sunday night, the Steelers earned the right to add to their amazing success story.
Next up are the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV.
01-24-2011, 02:50 AM
Gay makes most of start
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sport ... start.html (http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sports_details/article/1501/2011/january/24/gay-makes-most-of-start.html)
By: Andrew Chiappazzi
Beaver County Times
Monday January 24, 2011 12:04 AM
PITTSBURGH — William Gay looked down and saw the football lying in a patch of green space. Football 101 teaches players to fall on a loose ball to avoid risking handing the ball right back by trying to pick it up.
But that’s not what went through Gay’s mind.
“Don’t fall on it. Get it and try and do something with it,” Gay recalled. “We want to score on defense. I knew guys were running to the ball, so I knew I’d have some blockers and just try to get into the end zone.”
Gay did just that, scoring from 19 yards. The play started with Ike Taylor sacking Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to force the fumble, and Gay heaped all the credit onto Taylor and his teammates.
“It was all him. It was all Ike,” Gay said. “The pressure on the defensive line (helped), and the coverage in the back meant (Sanchez) had to hold the ball. So, Ike did a great job not only getting the sack but knocking the ball out.”
The play was a little bit of redemption for the fourth-year corner, who earned his first true start of the season in place of the injured Bryant McFadden. Gay and McFadden had split time in 2008, leading Gay to become the full-time starter when McFadden went to Arizona in 2009. But he became a target for opposing quarterbacks and drew the ire of fans, prompting the Steelers’ to bring McFadden back to shore up the secondary.
But with his abdominal injury still acting up to an extent, McFadden moved into a third-down role, pushing Gay into the spotlight.
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“It was all on B-Mac,” Gay said. “If he wasn’t able to go, he told me he’d let me go in and he’d come in on third down.”
As for McFadden, he didn’t register anything on the stat sheet, but he wanted to ensure he’d be on the field with his fellow defensive backs.
“I know I’ll be a little sore tomorrow,” McFadden said, “I wanted to be a little more physical, but I played a little differently tonight. It’s just something I had to deal with, and I understood that. A shot wasn’t going to be able to help this injury.
It was a somewhat unexpected revival of an old recipe. Gay filled in for an injured McFadden during the Steelers’ Super Bowl run in 2008, and it was that experience that helped push Gay into the starting role. But no matter the role, the two corners said their focus is solely on taking advantage of any role they’re given.
“It’s just the type of guys we are. One thing about our secondary is we’re a very unselfish group,” McFadden said. “We have a saying, ‘One person makes a play, we all make a play,’ and that’s how we play as a group. That has a lot to do with our success.”
And if not for a heads-up play by Gay, McFadden and the rest of the Steelers’ might be reserving tee times instead of heading to Dallas.
“Getting this opportunity in six years of going to my third Super Bowl, it’s an honor.” McFadden said.
01-24-2011, 02:52 AM
Madden: Steelers beat the hype
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By: Mark Madden
Beaver County Times
Monday January 24, 2011 12:00 AM
The matchup was as clear-cut as the difference between the coaches: Old-school football vs. New York hype.
The New York Jets were an average team on a good run. If they were from Boise or Omaha, they’d have been 10-point underdogs. The Jets were New York hype, hype that shattered in the frigid chill of Heinz Field in a game that took exactly 9:06 to decide.
Nine minutes, six seconds. That’s how long it took old-school football to sock New York hype right on the jaw. Sixty-six hard-earned yards and it was over, a devastating opening drive by the Steelers that separated men from boys, contenders from pretenders.
Now football has a Super Bowl for the ages. The classic dynasty against the perpetual dynasty. Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh.
It was great to see the Jets get theirs. Just because they swallowed their temerity and didn’t talk smack on the Steelers doesn’t excuse them from their endless bleating en route. Coach Sigmund Fraud’s two-bit psychology got far too much credence and credit. Professional athletes aren’t inspired, intimidated or rattled by trash talk.
One might think the chance to play in a Super Bowl would be motivation enough. In the Jets case, it was a burden they couldn’t handle.
Now the Jets can recede to their usual niche, a franchise that underachieves horribly despite great resources. A team perennially overrated thanks to New York hype. An HBO sideshow coached by a loudmouthed, foot-fetish freak.
Maybe the Jets are proud of reaching two straight AFC finals. But losing that game has never been cause for celebration in Pittsburgh.
Give Jets’ second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez credit. He willed the Jets back into the game (kind of) with a terrific 45-yard bomb to open the second half and displayed elusiveness Ben Roethlisberger would be proud of. NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders said the Jets were ready to win, their QB wasn’t. He got it backwards.
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Don’t give the Jets too much acclaim for their second-half comeback. Were they ever a serious threat to win? Did they ever have the ball with a chance to take the lead or tie? If the NFL was a college, the Jets would major in almost.
The Steelers’ Paleozoic offensive persona seems forced, especially given the presence of an elite quarterback in Roethlisberger. But it was exactly what was required in the crazy cold of Heinz Field, every crunching run an additional icy blast.
Chuck Noll once said, “Franco who?”
Last night, with Franco Harris in attendance, Rashard Mendenhall assembled a game worthy of the Steelers’ all-time rushing leader, gaining 121 yards (95 in the first half). Each yard was crucial, conquering the frost and a mediocre game by Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger surrendered two interceptions, but manufactured some crucial completions and runs. He goes to his third Super Bowl in six years. The thought of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell watching Roethlisberger hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy is delicious.
The Steelers may have to reinvent themselves yet again for Super Bowl XLV. The game will be played in the pristine conditions of Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. Center Maurkice Pouncey, the glue of the Steelers’ rag-tag offensive line, spent most of last night’s game on crutches. Sanchez is good. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is great.
But the Steelers will be a force to be reckoned with. The Steelers always find a way.
The New York Jets never do. Never will. New York hype.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).
01-24-2011, 02:55 AM
Steelers win, advance to Super Bowl XLV
By Bob Labriola - Steelers Digest
http://www.steelers.com/news/article-1/ ... b2d3449378 (http://www.steelers.com/news/article-1/Steelers-win-advance-to-Super-Bowl-XLV/45289a17-03f8-4097-b8cf-8fb2d3449378)
STEELERS 24, JETS 19
Steelers’ record: 14-4
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 17-4
Steelers’ record in AFC Championship Games: 8-7
As late as the start of these playoffs, there weren’t too many who believed it would be the Jets and the Steelers playing for the AFC’s spot in Super Bowl XLV. But here they both are, with the Jets having earned their spot with back-to-back wins over Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, and the Steelers because they won World War III against the Ravens. These teams played on Dec. 19, with the Jets having won at Heinz Field, but that really doesn’t constitute the kind of history that existed between the Jets and both the Colts and Patriots, and so instead of vitriol the run-up to the game was a lovefest.
A 17-0 lead in a game like this is huge, but a 24-0 lead can be considered insurmountable, and that’s what Ike Taylor and William Gay combined to provide the Steelers before the end of the first half. On a third-and-17, Taylor and Gay blitzed, while James Harrison dropped into coverage, which is another example of Dick LeBeau utilizing his personnel in ways designed to confuse the opposing quarterback. Taylor came in clean and got the sack/strip, and Gay scooped up the loose ball and ran 19 yards for the touchdown that gave the Steelers a 24-0 lead with just over a minute left in the first half.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT
Ben Roethlisberger now has a 10-2 record as a starting quarterback in the playoffs.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
* The idea always is to get off to a quick start, and the Steelers did that by taking the opening kickoff and driving 66 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown on a 1-yard extra-effort run by Rashard Mendenhall. The bad news was an ankle injury sustained by Maurkice Pouncey, and he was taken off the field on a cart.
* In the regular season version of this game, Mendenhall finished with 99 yards rushing, and the Steelers came into this one believing they could run the ball effectively. At the end of the third quarter, the Steelers had 166 yards rushing, with Mendenhall accounting for 116 of those on 24 carries.
* LaMarr Woodley set an NFL record by accumulating 10 career playoff sacks in only six games. Woodley has recorded at least one sack in every playoff game in which he has participated.
* In the first meeting between these teams, Ben Roethlisberger’s running was a valuable component to the offense, and so it was again in this AFC Championship Game. Roethlisberger officially finished with 21 yards on 11 carries, but he lost 7 yards on four kneel-downs, so he actually rushed seven times for 28 yards. None were as important as his 2-yard touchdown run in the first half when he read the Jets defense down at the goal line and took the opening that was presented to him.
* The Steelers were nursing a 24-19 lead when they got the ball with 3:06 left in the fourth quarter. After a 1-yard run by Mendenhall on first down, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians got the go-ahead from Coach Mike Tomlin to be aggressive. Roethlisberger then hit Heath Miller with a 14-yard pass for a first down, and then after a couple of more runs by Mendenhall forced the Jets to use their final two timeouts, Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown for a 14-yard gain for a first down on the play after the two-minute warning that allowed the Steelers to kneel three times to clinch the game.
WHAT WENT WRONG
* On a first-and-10 at the Jets 23-yard line during the Steelers’ opening possession, Ben Roethlisberger executed a pretty play-action fake and had Heath Miller wide open down the left sideline for an apparent touchdown. But Roethlisberger overthrew the ball slightly and Miller had to dive to make the catch at the 2-yard line. Originally called a reception on the field, referee Ed Hochuli overturned the play after a challenge by Rex Ryan.
* On fourth-and-1 at the Jets 32-yard line, Roethlisberger attempted a short dump-off pass to Rashard Mendenhall, who seemed to lose his footing as he came through the line of scrimmage. Mendenhall got a hand on the ball, which caused a carom that Bryan Thomas intercepted to give the ball to the Jets at their 35-yard line. 12:32 left in the first half.
* The Jets ended the first half with 50 net yards of offense, but they took the second half kickoff and drove 90 yards in five plays for the touchdown that made it 24-10. The score came on a 45-yard pass to Santonio Holmes, who ran past Ike Taylor and then was behind safety Ryan Clark when the ball arrived.
* After he escaped early pressure, Ben Roethlisberger had Emmanuel Sanders open deep, but the throw went to the receiver’s inside and was intercepted by safety Brodney Pool at the Jets 5-yard line. Coming into this game, Roethlisberger hadn’t thrown an interception since Dec. 5 in Baltimore, but he had thrown two in his first 17 attempts vs. the Jets.
* A first-and-10 at the Jets 42-yard line became a fourth-and-25 at the Steelers 43-yard line after a disastrous series in which Roethlisberger was sacked on first and third downs, and Mewelde Moore was dumped for a loss on a second-down run.
* Following a goal-line stand by the Steelers defense that preserved a 24-10 lead, Ben Roethlisberger fumbled the snap from center Doug Legursky and then had to fall on the ball for a safety. It was the second safety recorded by the Jets in the two games against the Steelers this season.
The unthinkable happened, but the Steelers found a way to overcome that, too.
Maurkice Pouncey sustained a high ankle sprain in the first half of the game against the Jets. He was helped off the field, and then taken from the sideline into the locker room on a cart. Doug Legursky replaced Pouncey.
“He’s got an ankle sprain,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “I think to say anything more than that at this point would be premature. But of course it was such that he couldn’t go back in the game today. I am sure we will have more information that will be debated here in the next couple of weeks. But it’s a great debate to have, isn’t it? We move on.”
The only players to miss the game for the Steelers with injuries were Will Allen (knee) and Aaron Smith (triceps).
CB Bryant McFadden (abdominal strain) did not start the game, but he did play in sub-package football in passing situations. William Gay started in place of McFadden, and then he moved into the slot when the Jets went to multiple wide receivers.
01-24-2011, 02:56 AM
Offense closes out win
By Mike Prisuta - WDVE-FM
http://www.steelers.com/news/article-1/ ... 5a2f0f0749 (http://www.steelers.com/news/article-1/Offense-closes-out-win/c7147d5a-9e88-4622-b4db-5f5a2f0f0749)
What was once a 24-0 blowout had been whittled to a most uncomfortable five-point advantage at 24-19 and there was still enough time remaining for the Jets to get the ball back and break the vast majority of the hearts in what had been the largest Steelers crowd in Heinz Field history.
That’s when the Steelers opted to do their best to take Sunday night’s AFC Championship Game by the throat once and for all.
On second-and-9 from the Steelers’ 42-yard line with 2:50 left in regulation quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rolled out and found tight end Heath Miller for 14 yards and a critical first down.
Then on third-and-6 from the Jets’ 40 just inside the two-minute warning, Roethlisberger found wide receiver Antonio Brown for 14 more yards and the first down that put the Steelers into kneel-down mode, the final detail left to attend to along the way to Dallas and Super Bowl XLV.
“It was a gutsy play,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “It was a great throw (to Miller) and a gutsy play, no question. So was that last one (to Brown), two great calls by (Mike) Tomlin.
“I tip my hat to them that they actually were putting the ball in the air. I thought they’d run it again.”
Instead, the Steelers opted to close the game out on offense.
“You know they’re going to play heavy run, and that bootleg is always pretty good, especially when Heath is going to be in a man-to-man situation,” offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. “Ben made a heckuva throw. And the last play, you either play to punt and hold onto your butt or you play to win. Coach (Tomlin) said ‘play to win,’ and we had a call we knew we wanted.
“Ben just made a heck of a play and Antonio stepped up.”
Roethlisberger finished 10 for 19 passing for 133 yards, with no touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 35.5.
Arians said the interception on a deep ball intended for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders resulted from Sanders not coming back for the ball.
Roethlisberger also fumbled a couple of snaps (one resulting in a safety that cut the Steelers’ lead to 24-12) and rushed 11 times for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Arians wasn’t complaining.
“I’ve seen him play better,” Arians said, “but he played extremely poised. I thought Ben played extremely well, especially knowing when to run, when to pull it down and go get first downs.
“He was a better running back, maybe, than a passer at times.”
Roethlisberger was thankful the offense was able to close the Jets out, but didn’t take much credit for his final two completions.
“The first one to Heath was (a) horrible (throw),” Roethlisberger said. “He made a heck of a play for me. And the last one was just, I don’t know where it was, I kinda got hit as soon I threw it. I was going to run for it, I had been doing it all night.
“I saw (Brown) come (open) and the little guy made a heck of a play.”
01-24-2011, 03:04 AM
Steelers climb stairway to Seventh heaven
Mendenhall's running grounds Jets, 24-19, to reach Super Bowl
Monday, January 24, 2011
By Dejan Kovacevic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Not quite yet.
That could come next for the Steelers, who won the chance at an unprecedented seventh Super Bowl crown by staving off the New York Jets, 24-19, in the AFC championship game Sunday night at Heinz Field. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 133 yards and a critical completion to avert a huge collapse, Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 121 yards, and a record crowd of 66,662 celebrated by waving Terrible Towels through equally terrible temperatures.
The final challenge will be Green Bay in Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6 in Arlington, Texas. The Packers won the NFC championship earlier Sunday, 21-14, in Chicago.
"Never gets old," veteran wide receiver Hines Ward said, grinning as he held up a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne. "A lot of our guys have had to battle a lot of things this year, but we're going to the Super Bowl, we're going to play the Packers, and we're going to enjoy it."
"Shoot, a Super Bowl is a Super Bowl. Doesn't matter if it's your first one or your 10th one," Roethlisberger said. "Any player is happy to get there."
It did not come easily.
The Steelers leaped to a 24-3 lead by halftime and had an absurd 135-1 advantage in rushing yards, dominating all facets. The Jets mounted an impressive 16-point rally in the second half, capped by a Mark Sanchez touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery with 3:06 remaining to pull within five.
Still, Roethlisberger and the offense were able to run out the clock on the final possession, with the killer stake being a 14-yard pass completion to rookie Antonio Brown -- the hero last week against the Baltimore Ravens with a late 58-yard catch -- for a first down.
The Jets had expressed dread all week at containing Roethlisberger's scrambling, and he dashed well to his right before finding Brown.
"I always feel blessed to have my number called," Brown said. "But Ben made the play."
"The first 30 minutes was conference-champion worthy," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We kind of limped home, but we aren't going to complain about style points. They made the necessary plays to get the job done. I'm just so excited and happy for those guys."
This will mark the Steelers' eighth Super Bowl appearance, tying the Dallas Cowboys' NFL record, and third in the past six years. The Steelers' six Super Bowl championships are the most in league history, with the Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers each having five.
On the Steelers' current roster, a remarkable total of 16 players will have a chance at a third Super Bowl championship ring.
The Steelers had former greats Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier present the Lamar Hunt Trophy as AFC champions to team chairman emeritus Dan Rooney and president Art Rooney II, his son, with the crowd roaring.
Asked to rank this among all the successes, Art Rooney replied: "We'll take as many as we can get. Every one of them is special. It's a special group."
It will be a special Super Bowl matchup, too, a meeting of perhaps the NFL's most storied franchises. Green Bay, a founding NFL member born in 1921, has won three Super Bowls, including the first two, plus nine league championships before the Super Bowl's inception in 1967. The Packers' 12 total titles are the most in league history. The Steelers were born in 1933.
The tradition angle already was a topic among fans at Heinz Field.
"It doesn't get any better in football," Scott Cramer of Monongahela said. "And for us ... hey, everybody in the NFL thought this team would go 9-7 or 8-8 after Ben was suspended and some guys were hurt. But they held it together, and they had a big team effort."
That was a reference to the first four games of the season that Roethlisberger was forced to miss for conduct detrimental to the NFL's image.
After Roethlisberger's completion, a community exhale and the trophy presentation, fans streamed down the escalators and rotundas, singing the familiar, "I've got a feeling, Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl!"
The victory came with some pain: Roethlisberger was hobbled early when he was hit in the hip but ran for 21 yards. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, a rookie, exited in the first quarter with a high ankle sprain, though he expects to be fine for the Super Bowl. And cornerback Bryant McFadden limped through an evening of sound coverage after missing a week with a strained groin.
"I told the guys, 'I've got half a tank, but I'm going to give you everything I have,' " McFadden said. "That's what we do."
For the brash, bombastic Jets -- though they quieted considerably leading up to facing the Steelers -- it was a bitter finish to a rousing playoff run in which they scored upset road victories against the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots. It also was the second consecutive year they lost in the AFC championship.
"We had a heck of a season," coach Rex Ryan said. "Obviously, we came up short tonight, just like we did last year. But we have to give Pittsburgh credit. That's a heck of a football team. If you're planning on beating them, you'd better put four quarters together. ... We almost pulled out another one."
"I'm sick. It's bad. It's awful," guard Matt Slauson said. "Congratulations to them because they played a whole, entire game. Unfortunately, we only played half."
Temperature at kickoff was a biting 17 degrees, with a wind chill of 5 degrees, and the latter dipped to minus-1 by the second half. But it was not nearly cold enough to dissuade fans of either team, though the Jets did not appear nearly as well represented as the Ravens' fans the previous week.
"I have 10 total pieces of clothing on, plus eight warmers, but I'm just so happy to be here," Tracee Short of Beechview said. "And I'm originally from Texas!"
Yu-Ling Behr of Aspinwall, five months pregnant, went further.
"Five layers of pants, five shirts, two caps, two gloves and a blanket," she said.
The record crowd was the result of the temporary seating section in the north end zone, installed for the National Hockey League's Winter Classic, which drew 68,111 on New Year's Day. The Steelers' previous attendance record was 65,597, set Oct. 25, 2009.
Before the game, fireworks erupted from both stadium rooftops, as well as a larger set from Point State Park. Fifty local military servicemen and women were honored on the field in a welcome-home ceremony. And, just before country star Martina McBride sung the national anthem, local rap artist Wiz Khalifa performed his Pittsburgh-inspired "Black and Yellow" that has become an anthem for the Steelers.
Expect to hear much more of it in the next two weeks, even deep in the heart of Texas.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11024/11 ... z1BvxrQPnc (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11024/1120297-66.stm#ixzz1BvxrQPnc)
01-24-2011, 03:05 AM
Steelers win AFC crown
Steelers hold on for championship after dominating Jets in first half
Monday, January 24, 2011
BY Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Hines Ward gripped a near-empty bottle of non-alcoholic champagne and joked that he had stolen it from the New York Jets, who had boasted that they and their fans would be drinking the bubbly.
"I'm sleeping with this bottle tonight," Ward proclaimed after the jubilation around him in the Steelers locker room had calmed down.
Ward had just performed his as-promised Heinz Field leap, joining fans in the stands to celebrate the Steelers' eighth trip to a Super Bowl after they prevailed against the New York Jets, 24-19, Sunday night in the AFC championship.
"I was hugging everybody, kissing grandmas and everything. I hope I didn't kiss anyone's girlfriends. I think a couple of dudes kissed me on the cheek.'' • They can kiss another Vince Lombardi Trophy if they beat the Green Bay Packers Feb. 6 in Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Steelers already own six, more than any team.
"There are 32 teams that start this journey and there are two left," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "and we are fortunate to be one of them."
More fortunate than maybe they realize after running out to a 24-0 lead in the first half. The New York Jets scored the next four times and weren't out of it until Ben Roethlisberger completed a third-down pass to rookie Antonio Brown for 14 yards and a first down with 1:48 and no Jets timeouts left.
The Steelers discussed possibly running on that play in which they needed 6 yards for a first down at the New York 40; it would have run the clock down a little more before they punted. Tomlin opted to go for the first down instead.
"We weren't going to play not to lose," Tomlin said. "That's pretty funny isn't it? A third-and-6 to win the game for a rookie from Central Michigan."
The catch wasn't as long or as spectacular as the one Brown caught that helped the Steelers beat the Ravens the previous week, but it may have averted a meltdown of epic proportions had New York been given one final try to win it.
The Steelers grew a little nervous as they saw their huge lead nearly evaporate.
"I did, I'm not going to lie," offensive lineman Trai Essex said. "They're a good team and the momentum shifted and we couldn't get anything going."
Just a week earlier, the Steelers overcame a 21-7 Baltimore halftime lead, and they were seeing it happen to them after a 24-3 halftime lead.
In the first half, they did little wrong. Rashard Mendenhall had 95 of his 121 yards rushing in the first half. He scored from the 1 to kick things off, capping a nine-minute drive that lasted 15 plays and traveled 66 yards to open the game.
The points started dropping faster than the temperature in the second quarter as Shaun Suisham kicked a 20-yard field goal, Roethlisberger ran around right end for a 2-yard touchdown and William Gay ran 19 yards with a Mark Sanchez fumble caused when cornerback Ike Taylor blitzed him from the blind side.
"Ike did a tremendous job, not only getting the sack but getting the ball down," Gay said.
When the Jets scooted 44 yards in 1:04 to Nick Folk's 42-yard field goal with nine seconds left, it seemed an exercise in futility for the Jets.
Yet the second half nearly turned Heinz Field into an historic meltdown in the bitter cold night.
Sanchez threw touchdown passes to Santonio Holmes and Jerricho Cotchery around a safety when Roethlisberger fumbled a snap in his end zone and there was no scoring done by the Steelers.
A hush fell over the record crowd of 66,662 when the Jets took the opening kickoff of the second half and moved 90 yards in five plays to score on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Holmes.
Holmes flashed wide open, beating Taylor.
That cut the Steelers' lead to 14 points with plenty of time left.
The Jets had a chance to cut it to seven midway through the fourth quarter but the Steelers' defense had a great goal-line stand, holding the Jets out of the end zone after a first down at the 2. New York's drive had consumed 17 plays, 80 yards and 8:06 with nothing to show for it.
"They had our number on it," Jets guard Matt Slauson said. "It seemed like they knew what we were going to call every single time. They blitzed perfectly and we just didn't get it done with our one-on-one matchups."
But the Jets got something out of it when on the next play from the 1, Roethlisberger fumbled the snap from center and was downed in his end zone for a safety.
That cut their lead to 24-12 with 7:38 left, but the point difference between a Jets touchdown and a safety turned out to be the difference in the game.
Roethlisberger was not sharp with his passes. He completed just 10 of 19 for 133 yards and he was intercepted twice. His passer rating was a poor 35.5. One came off of a tipped pass but another occurred when he had Emmanuel Sanders wide open on the left inside the Jets' 10, but the pass hung more to the right and safety Brodney Pool intercepted it.
Roethlisberger, though, had some key runs for first downs -- he ran 11 times for 21 yards including his touchdown.
The Jets, who rushed for a season-high 106 yards against the Steelers in a five-point victory in December, had just 70 yards rushing. Sanchez completed 20 of 33 for 233 with no interceptions and a 102.2 passer rating. Each quarterback was sacked twice.
The Steelers played their most dominant half of football this season as they ran out to their 24-3 lead. It appeared the game was over.
"I didn't think it was over," said linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who had another sack to give him 10 in six postseason games. "It was still early in the game. You saw last week against Baltimore when we were down. There was still another half of football left ... so it's not over until it's the fourth quarter with 0:00 on the clock."
The Green Bay Packers have been established as early 2 1/2-point favorites in Super Bowl XLV. Start a new clock.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11024/11 ... z1Bvy9c6Xd (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11024/1120290-66.stm#ixzz1Bvy9c6Xd)
01-24-2011, 03:10 AM
Steelers withstand Jets' charge in AFC title-game thriller
By Scott Brown, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Monday, January 24, 2011
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 19513.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_719513.html)
Dallas may fancy itself as America's team, but that city is where the Steelers will try to put more distance between themselves and the Cowboys.
And every other NFL franchise, for that matter.
Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown, and the Steelers survived a furious second-half rally to beat the New York Jets, 24-19, on Sunday night in the AFC Championship Game.
The Steelers (14-4) have a chance to win a seventh Super Bowl in Dallas, and a victory would give them two more Lombardi Trophies than the Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers -- their closest pursuers in the NFL's benchmark for excellence.
Super Bowl XLV will pit the Steelers against the Green Bay Packers, another of the league's storied franchises, on Feb. 6 at Cowboys Stadium.
"We're very similar organizations, the way we operate," Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney said in the victorious locker room last night. "We have great respect for them, and we always have. It's wonderful to have two smaller-market teams playing in the Super Bowl."
The Steelers outgained the Jets (13-6) by 171 yards in the first half, scored the first 24 points of the game and almost registered an early knockout.
That came in the second quarter, when a blitzing Ike Taylor crushed Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez with a blind-side hit, causing a fumble that William Gay returned 19 yards for the touchdown.
Outside linebacker James Harrison stood over Sanchez after the hit, waving for Jets medical personnel to attend to the second-year quarterback. Sanchez was able to get up and stagger off the field, but no sequence better captured how the Steelers bullied the Jets in front of a record crowd of 66,662 at Heinz Field -- at least in the first half.
After imposing their will on the Jets, the Steelers had to hold on for dear life.
The Jets narrowed the gap to five points on a Sanchez touchdown pass with 3:06 left in the game. But New York did not get the ball back, as Ben Roethlisberger twice moved the chains late in the game with clutch passes.
"The first 30 minutes was conference-championship worthy," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "We kind of limped home, but we aren't going to complain about style points."
The Jets had pulled off upsets in consecutive weeks to get to the championship game. And after a relatively quiet week, some of the Jets players did some talking in the latter part of it.
Several of them predicted that New York would beat the Steelers.
"When you're not used to winning, you do a little bit more talking to try to talk yourself into it," Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "Maybe when they get an opportunity to win championships they'll keep their mouths closed and play."
Two of the biggest questions going into the game had been whether the Jets were emotionally spent after upsetting the hated New England Patriots the previous week.
Or whether they would roll into Heinz Field on such a roll, a la the Steelers in 2005, that Roethlisberger and Co. would be a mere speed bump on the Jets' way to Dallas.
The latter scenario did not transpire, in part because Roethlisberger did not play one of his better games.
Roethlisberger took a streak of 190 consecutive pass attempts without an interception into the game, but he threw a pair of picks. He also fumbled a snap after the Steelers had stuffed Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson on fourth down from the 1-yard line, giving New York a safety.
Roethlisberger, who improved to 10-2 in the postseason, did make some timely plays. Mendenhall gashed a Jets defense that finished third in the NFL against the run during the regular season, hitting the 100-yard mark against New York for the second time this season.
The Steelers set the tone early, marching 66 yards on 15 plays on the opening possession.
Mendenhall pounded out 28 yards on the ground and finished the drive by bulling into the end zone on a 1-yard run.
Roethlisberger, who threw for 133 yards, completed his final pass to rookie wide receiver Antonio Brown, a 14-yarder that caused Jets coach Rex Ryan to throw his headset to the turf.
"That's pretty funny, isn't is?" Tomlin said. "A third-and-six (catch) to win the game for a rookie from Central Michigan."
Taylor, Gay team on big play
The way the Steelers were running the ball and controlling the clock, it looked like they wouldn't need a big play from their defense.
Thanks to Ike Taylor and William Gay, they got one anyhow.
Taylor's forced fumble and Gay's 19-yard touchdown return turned out to be a pivotal play in the AFC Championship Game, giving the Steelers a 24-point lead over the New York Jets with 1:13 remaining in the first half.
The play loomed large when the Jets rallied to within five points in the fourth quarter before the Steelers held on for a 24-19 victory.
The Steelers had just tacked on their second touchdown to go ahead, 17-0, shortly before the two-minute warning. The Jets were trying to salvage something in the half, but quarterback Mark Sanchez was sacked for a 7-yard loss on first down.
Sanchez dropped back to pass again on second-and-17 and didn't see Taylor coming untouched from around the edge.
"I saw him cock his arm as I was trying to hit him," Taylor said. "I didn't know it was a fumble, and I didn't know William Gay had the ball until I heard the crowd."
After Taylor knocked the ball from Sanchez's grasp, Gay swooped in and retrieved it and scooted into the end zone for the touchdown.
"I didn't want to fall on the ball," Gay said. "I wanted to do something with it. We want to score on defense."
The score was upheld after a booth review ruled that Taylor knocked the ball loose before Sanchez's hand came forward in a passing motion.
"Every time you go to the Super Bowl, it's a wonderful thing. It's just so terrific with what all we went through this year. I'm very happy for everyone in the organization."
Dan Rooney -- Steelers chairman emeritus, on the team's third Super Bowl trip in the past six years.
9 Times in 13 tries that the AFC champion has won the Super Bowl since the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XXXI.
2 Times in the past three years that the NFC champion has won the Super Bowl.
-- Joe Rutter
Steelers -- Position -- Jets
B -- Quarterback -- B
Ben Roethlisberger scored a rushing touchdown but had only eight completions until the final drive. Mark Sanchez overcame a miserable start to throw two TDs and bring the Jets to within five points.
A -- Running back -- C
Rashard Mendenhall carved up a defense that was ranked third in the regular season against the run. The Steelers finished with 166 rushing yards. The Jets rarely ran after falling behind 24-0 and couldn't get the big fourth-down conversion at the goal line in the fourth quarter.
C -- Wide receiver -- B
Antonio Brown made the first-down catch that sealed the outcome, but the receivers weren't a factor for much of the game. Santonio Holmes got behind Ryan Clark for a 45-yard TD pass that brought the Jets within 24-10, and Jerricho Cotchery added a TD catch.
A -- Offensive line -- B
Even without Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers opened big holes for Mendenhall, particularly on the right side. The Jets gave Sanchez adequate protection in the second half.
B -- Tight end -- A
Heath Miller had a 24-yard catch that set up the Steelers' second TD and a key first-down catch late in the fourth quarter. Dustin Keller led the Jets with eight catches for 64 yards.
B -- Defensive line -- C
Brett Keisel came up with the big stop on the fourth-quarter goal-line stand. The Jets put pressure on Roethlisberger but couldn't stop the run.
A -- Linebacker -- C
LaMarr Woodley was all over the field, getting a sack and two tackles for loss. Bryan Thomas had one of the Jets' two interceptions, and David Harris had nine tackles.
B -- Secondary -- B
Ike Taylor and William Gay combined for the big defensive play that provided a 24-point lead late in the first half, but Ryan Clark was burned on the long TD pass to Holmes. The Jets didn't give up any deep passing plays but couldn't make the stops on the Steelers' final drive.
B -- Special teams -- C
Shaun Suisham made his only field goal attempt, and the Steelers did a good job of denying any big runbacks. The Jets had a roughing-the-punter penalty, and Steve Weatherford shanked a punt 29 yards.
B -- Coaching -- C
The Steelers had the right game plan at the outset, although they had a letdown for much of the second half. Despite the second-half comeback, the Jets weren't prepared to play in the first 30 minutes.
Read more: Steelers withstand Jets' charge in AFC title-game thriller - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... z1BvzMzObc (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_719513.html#ixzz1BvzMzObc)
01-24-2011, 05:01 AM
The Madden article wss quite ripping. I'm just happy to continue the season and hopefully get a chance to ease some off-season woes with watching our team win the 7th Lombardi!
01-24-2011, 07:13 PM
nice post - one stop shopping for all the Steeler media commentary in the midst of all the new thread noise.
01-24-2011, 10:35 PM
The Madden article wss quite ripping. I'm just happy to continue the season and hopefully get a chance to ease some off-season woes with watching our team win the 7th Lombardi!
I thought it was bush league. It reminded me more of some fan posting on a forum pretending they are a journalist. He's basically doing the same thing the Jets did while ragging on them for doing it.
I believe that qualifies as douchebaggery.
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