NOTEBOOK From Heinz Field
Record crowd: Sunday's attendance of 64,704 (254 above capacity) broke the record for a football game in Pittsburgh. Three Rivers Stadium, the Steelers' home from 1970-2000, had a capacity of 59,600. Although all of this year's Steelers games at Heinz Field were sellouts, the Steelers announce actual attendance. Sunday's game was the first of the 10 played at Heinz Field where there were no no-shows.
Alliance Hall of Famer: Alliance native Len Dawson, the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback with the Kansas City Chiefs, presented the Lamar Hunt Trophy to the Patriots. Dawson, who appears weekly on HBO's "Inside the NFL," was selected for the honor because he quarterbacked the Chiefs in the first Super Bowl in 1967. It was the first time a retired played had awarded the trophy. "I guess [Chiefs owner] Lamar is tired of coming to games in the cold," Dawson said. "It's a good thing he didn't know how nice it was going to be today." Gametime temperature was 50 degrees.
How low can you go? The New England Patriots, which defeated the Steelers for the second time in the postseason, shut down the Pittsburgh ground game, holding Steeler ballcarriers to 58 yards. The previous low this season was 73 yards in a loss to the Bengals in Cincinnati on Dec. 30.
Superstar: New England's Troy Brown was easily the AFC Championship Game's most valuable player, returning a punt 55 yards for one touchdown and helping return a blocked field goal for another. Disrespect motivated the Patriots, Brown said. "They didn't respect us at all," said Brown, who also led the Patriots in receiving with eight catches for 121 yards. "Nobody respected us. They just didn't expect us to come in here and play as well as we did in a hostile place like this. We proved to ourselves that we can win on the road."
Going to New Orleans: Wide receiver Charles Johnson, a Steeler from 1994-98, caught two passes for 22 yards for New England. Johnson was the Steelers' first-round draft pick in 1994 (17th overall). Linebacker Mike Vrabel of Ohio State, who made four tackles Sunday, played for the Steelers from 1997-2000, then signed with the Patriots last off-season after being released.
From the Browns to the Big Easy: Two former members of the expansion Cleveland Browns are going to the Super Bowl. Patriots wide receiver David Patten, who played for the Browns in the 2000 season, caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Drew Bledsoe late in the second quarter for a 14-3 lead. "It was a zone coverage," said Patten, who added that Steelers linebacker Jason Gildon was working to cover the inside. "So I set up like I was going to the inside, then went outside." Fullback Marc Edwards, also with the Browns last season, caught four passes for 26 yards. Defensive end Anthony Pleasant, who played for the Art Modell Browns, had three tackles.
Bledsoe: Patten said quarterback Drew Bledsoe's loss of his starting job after a rib injury has "been tough on him all year, but he's handled it with true professionalism. We have two great quarterbacks on this team. We see Tom [Brady] go out and [Drew] Bledsoe come in, there's really not a deflation because we know both guys can get the job done."
No Cinderellas: Patten said he doesn't consider the Patriots to be a Cinderella team after a 5-11 season in 2000. "Every year is a different year [because] there is so much parity in this league," said Patten after catching four passes for 39 yards. "The critics don't think we have any talent, but that's their opinion. We know what's in this locker room." Safety Lawyer Milloy said the Pats kept the faith despite an 0-2 start and the loss of their starting quarterback. "We always believed in our chances," Milloy said. "We feel like we match up [well] against everybody." As for being underrated, Milloy said, "it's going to be the same thing next week [against the St. Louis Rams]. I hate to look at the odds." The Patriots opened as 14-point underdogs to the Rams.
Career turnaround: "It's truly been a blessing," said Patten of his relocation to New England. "A year ago, I was just glad to be playing ball. [The Browns] wanted to keep me, but I felt there was a better opportunity for me here."
Inactives: Running back R.J. Bowers, who played at Grove City College, was among the Steeler inactives. Others were cornerback Hank Poteat, center Chukky Okobi, defensive end Chris Combs, tackle Mathias Nkwenti, tight end Cory Geason and linebacker Justin Kurpeikis. Patriot inactives were: Wide receiver Jimmy Farris, cornerback Leonard Myers, tight end Arther Love, offensive lineman Stephen Neal, defensive lineman Chris Sullivan, tackle Kenyatta Jones and defensive end David Nugent.
Tied for lead: Since 1970, the Steelers have hosted eight AFC Championship games. The San Francisco 49ers have been home for eight NFC title games. The AFC runners-up are the Miami Dolphins (six).
-- Tom Williams