AFC Championship Recap: Pittsburgh’s Goin’ To The Super Bowl

On Myron Cope‘s 82nd birthday, the team he loved the most gave him the gift which was undoubtedly at the top of his list.   Hum-Hah!  The Pittsburgh Steelers soundly defeated the New York Jets 24-19, earning a trip to Super Bowl XLV.  Sounds okel dokel to me.

Much like last week, this game was a Jekyll and Hyde affair.  Unlike last week, the Steelers got off to great start by playing one of the most dominant halves of football in playoff history.  The Jets had one yard rushing at halftime.  ONE YARD.  Before Dick LeBeau called off the dogs toward the end of the half, New York was staring at epic futility of less than thirty yards of total offense.

In a fitting tribute to Myron, the Steelers got off to their great start by going Old School.   Pittsburgh’s opening drive lasted fifteen plays and consumed over nine minutes, thanks to the tough running of Rashard Mendenhall.  This was vintage Stillers Football at its finest.   Mendy, who would have 100 yards by halftime, continued pounding the rock on the next three drives, running over and past the big green pylons who barely tried to stop him.

The only thing stopping the Black and Gold juggernaut was a sputtering passing game led by Ben Roethlisberger.  Big Ben’s best contribution came in the form of several key scrambles where he showed the guts and heart missing from sissy-girl cowards like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.  Ben left a number of plays on the field, particularly underthrowing a wide open Mike Wallace early in the second and overthrowing a wide open Heath Miller on a play where Heath’s spectacular catch was later taken away by the clearly biased officiating crew.  When the game was on the line, Ben made the throws he needed to make but this was far from his best effort.

To be fair, Ben was facing the best secondary in the league.  After throwing only five interceptions all season, he threw two picks yesterday and very easily could have thrown two or three more.  His 55.3 quarterback rating was the second worst of his career, behind only his infamous Super Bowl performance against the Seahawks.  Playing most of the game with his key offensive lineman sitting on the sideline probably didn’t help.

Maurkice Pouncey was injured on the opening drive and spent the rest of the game on crutches.  Without him, the Steelers still managed to run the ball effectively throughout the first half.  The Jets couldn’t run at all while Mark Sanchez would throw five yard checkdowns on third and long.  After Ike Taylor forced a fumble on a corner blitz and William Gay picked it up for a defensive touchdown, the game appeared to be over.   Even going to a loose prevent type defense which allowed the Jets a face-saving last second field goal didn’t set off any warning signals.

Then the second half began and everything was reversed.  The breaks starting going the Jets way, starting with a quick touchdown on their opening drive when Face Me Ike slipped, allowing Santonio Holmes to run all alone in to the end zone.  The Steelers answered with a drive of their own but it ended badly when Ben threw his second pick on a fourth and two.  Offensively, Mendy would rush for only 26 more yards after his dominant first half performance.  Worst of all, Bruce Arians seemingly shut his brain off at halftime because he began dialing up some of the dumbest play calls I’ve seen all season.


The key to the second half was the drive New York began at the end of the third quarter.  LeBeau played a bend-but-don’t-break zone type defense, allowing Sanchez underneath stuff in exchange for time on the clock.  Down by two touchdowns, Gang Green consumed over eight valuable minutes of the fourth quarter driving down to the Steelers 2.  From that point, the Steelers D stood strong on four consecutive plays, finally stonewalling LaDainian Tomlinson on a fourth and goal from the one foot line.

If Steeler Nation started breathing a little easier after that, they should know better.  This team NEVER MAKES ANYTHING EASY.  On the very first play backed up in their own end, the absence of Pouncey finally reared its head when Ben fumbled a poor snap from back up center Doug Legursky.  Ben smartly fell on the ball, sacrificing a safety to save a touchdown.  But the two points and free kick signaled a clear change in momentum for the downtrodden Jets.

Sure enough, the Jets took the ball and drove for a touchdown to make the margin an uncomfortably close five points.  The bad news was a 24 point margin had shrunk faster than Bret Favre in an ice bath.  The good news is all these shenanigans had left only three minutes on the clock.  With three time outs and a two minute warning, Rex Ryan chose to kick off.   And that was Sexy Rexy’s fatal error.

As my granddaddy says, never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!  Or maybe that was The Princess Bride.   Anyway, you never put the ball in Big Ben’s hands when a game is on the line.  He’ll make mistakes, he’ll miss receivers, he’ll get the crap pounded out of him…  But when the pressure is on and you need a play, NOBODY IS CLUTCHER THAN BIG BEN.

After a run netted nothing, Ben hit Heath for 14 yards and a first down.  Two more runs later, the Steelers were staring at a third and long with two minutes left.  Thirty other teams would just run the ball, take time off the clock, then kick and hope your defense can hold for the final ninety seconds.   Not the Steelers.  Not when you have Big Ben.

Ben scrambled to his right, saw rookie Antonio Brown break open, and hit him with a strike for a first down.  I would call it a gutsy call but how much courage do you need when you have the best big game quarterback in the NFL behind center?  Great catch.  Great throw.  Game over.

Just like that, a season that began in turmoil is finishing up in JerryWorld.  But this really isn’t the end but rather a beginning.  The beginning of a two week odyssey which will reaffirm the Steelers position as the greatest franchise in NFL history.  An odyssey which will establish Mike Tomlin as the game’s brightest young head coach and Ben as the game’s greatest big game quarterback.

Here we go…

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  • Jim

    With apologies to James Earl Jones,the voice of Darth Vader, it seems with Roger Godell is concerned with his attempt to disebowel the Steelers, is it safe to say “Now his failure is complete?”
    Or after the Steelers get the 7th Superbowl win will that be the case?

    Green Bay may have cheese, but we got the 6 rings to prove our staying power. Let’s go get that 7th ring.


    • chris

      It’s funny you mention that, Jim. My original title was going to be something like, “Goodell Loses Again” or “NFL can’t keep good Steelers down.” But I wanted to be positive so I decided to go with an more upbeat title. Your failure is now complete is really great, though. And fitting.

      This Super Bowl is going to be fun. I don’t have any hate in my heart for Green Bay so it’ll just be a great game and a great opponent. No need to get worked up like if we played an evil dickheaded fanbase like Baltimore or Philly.


  • Tom G

    I didn’t have a problem with the officiating on this game. Heath’s catch did hit the ground, and was slightly bobbled. I would have had a huge problem if they overturned the fumble by Sanchez. But, they got it right.

    For once, I’d like to see a comfortable lead stay just that – a freaking comfortable lead!

    Now, we just have to pray for Pouncey to be healthy. That is going to make a huge difference on the outcome of the big game, imo. No Pouncey, no winney.

    • chris

      Well, I never saw any bit of ball touch turf (at least, not CONCLUSIVELY) but we’ll agree to disagree.

      And, yeah, I haven’t issued a report on Pouncey because I’ve been hearing conflicting stories. Pouncer says he’ll play, SI is saying it’s doubtful. Let’s hope for the former since the Big Legursky is okay in a pinch but not full time.

  • Bill

    Bring on the Bay.
    A win is a win but that second half was ugly. Way for the Stillers to hang in and gut it out with ‘old school’ defense. Four shot inside the 2 and nothing broke the plane. That’s type of D it’ll take in Dallas. Rogers aint flashy but he’s accurate and it’ll take everything we have on D to make it. Good thing is Ben just had a rough game so hopefully he’ll come back strong and Troy gets two more weeks to get back to 100%.

    Here We Go!

    • chris

      Great D always counters great O. The Pack is a bad match-up for the Stillers ’cause they can sling the ball but I don’t think Chicago’s secondary is that great and they held them to 14 points (one TD was a pick six).

  • Smoking Tire

    Nice recap.
    That was as dominant a first half as I’ve ever seen by the Steelers.

    Ben had a horrible game, but he still had several really nice plays that the stat sheet doesn’t show. His 12 yard scramble on that first drive set the tone. And his semi-bootleg score was also nice, planned or not. He also had a few nice clutch throws. Either way, I hope that gets the bad stuff out of his system for the Super Bowl.

    I also like the fact that we are early under dogs for the big game according to the boys in Vegas. That will be the kind of disrespect the Stillas take to heart. The Packers are healthier, have a better O and a better secondary, but the Steelers are a resilient bunch as we’ve seen all year. I expect a close game that comes down to the final minute. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the Steelers for sure.

    What a great team. I’m proud and feel fortunate to be a Stillas fan.

    • chris

      Thanks, Tire.

      Yeah, I tried to be fair to Ben by noting his running around was extremely valuable to the team. It really was the big difference between this game and Indy/NE. But he needs to throw A LOT better if we’re going to hang with GB.

      2 point underdogs (last line I saw) is hardly a huge slap to the Stillers so I’m not sure they should play the disrespect card on that. At this point, I think the whole “I TOLD YOU SO” motive of everybody burying this team is motivation enough to show the world how the boys from the Burgh do things.


    I told my boy, Jack (a Cowboys fan), at the beginning of the season that the Steelers would be playing in Jerry’s house this year. It’s sure is a damn good feeling to see that it will happen! Green Bay will be tough on defense, but our D should make some big plays. Rodgers is definitely a wild card though. Probably more like Ben than Ben himself except that he has consistently huge stats. Still nobody better than Ben when it comes to clutch mode.
    Go Steelers! Black and yellow, black and yellow…

  • Ram

    This SB will be a great matchup to watch and not an easy one to predict. For one, Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the GreenBay Offense are the kind that has given problems to the Pitt D in the past. Rodgers can throw from outside the pocket too (he is still not as good at it like Ben but still) and Dick LeBeau has to be careful with the kind of blitzing he will show Rodgers. I get the feeling that whichever team commits the fewest mistakes or gives up the fewest big plays will win this. We generally win when teams try to run over us and GreenBay does not really have a good running game. If they stick to Rodgers flinging it early and often, things would get interesting.

    In last year’s GB-AZ playoff game, GB targeted Bryant McFadden a lot of times and they will look to do that same thing this time.
    Big Ben might just have to dial in one more clutch TD to win this one. Stairway to Seven!

  • tom

    Great write up and spot on. Would have loved a complete game instead of the great first half and scary second, oh well a win is a win. Glad the Steelers made my statement come true. We went to the first game against the Lions as we attend training camp every year. We had a first row seat from a season ticket season holder and put our sign out: We came from Dallas to see the first game of the season, now come see us for the last at Super Bowl XLV. Wow, glad to see they made it come true. The Super Bowl looks like a good matchup that will come to the end, but I’m ready for number 7, both Ben and Lombardies. Go Steelers!

  • shobod


    How’d you let your son become a Cowboys fan..I would’ve disowned mine