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Steelers set for 2nd season



Published: Mon, January 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Pittsburgh expects another defensive struggle when the Jets come to town.

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Steelers put the New York Jets into the playoffs. The AFC's top-seeded team now will try to take the Jets out of the postseason.

The Steelers, who had a first-round bye, play the Jets in a divisional playoff game Saturday in Pittsburgh after New York's dramatic, 20-17 overtime win Saturday night at San Diego.

Pittsburgh would have played the Broncos if they had upset Indianapolis on Sunday, but Denver was eliminated by the Colts, 49-24, for the second consecutive postseason. The Colts play Sunday at defending Super Bowl champion New England in a rematch of last season's AFC Championship game.

Dec. 12 game

The Steelers and Jets have never met in the playoffs, but Pittsburgh beat New York 17-6 in a defense-driven game Dec. 12 at Heinz Field. Steelers broke a 3-all tie early in the fourth quarter on running back Jerome Bettis' third career touchdown pass, to tight end Jerame Tuman, and Bettis later scored on a 12-yard touchdown run.

The Jets have never won in Pittsburgh, going 0-6 there. They are 2-15 overall against the Steelers, beating them only during two of the Steelers' worst seasons in the last 35 years: 1988 (5-11) and 2003 (6-10).

New York lost three of its final four regular-season games to go 10-6, but got into the playoffs when the Steelers beat Buffalo 29-24 on Jan. 2 to win their 14th in a row and finish 15-1. Pittsburgh already owned home-field advantage and a bye, yet still beat a Bills team that needed to win to reach the postseason.

The Jets and Steelers are so familiar, coach Bill Cowher ended Friday's practice -- devoted to the Jets -- after 20 minutes and sent his players home for a three-day weekend. They won't practice again until Tuesday.

The Steelers devoted one practice last week to each of their three possible opponents -- the Jets, Chargers, and Broncos -- but did little work for the Jets since they played them less than a month ago.

"We know they have a great defense and they'll be coming after us," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said during CBS' Broncos-Colts telecast Sunday. "They'll have [defensive end John] Abraham back. They got us away from our game plan [last month]" and will try to do the same thing Saturday.

The rookie's run

The Jets' game was one of only three during Roethlisberger's unprecedented 13-0 rookie-season run in which he did not throw a touchdown pass. He went 9-of-19 for 144 yards and two interceptions in, arguably, his worst NFL start to date.

The Jets contained Roethlisberger despite being without Abraham, their star defensive end who sat out with a sprained right knee ligament.

That's why Bettis has some advice for the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year as Roethlisberger awaits his first playoff game.

"I will just tell him to take it one game at a time, as during the season -- go after the team the same way you did during the regular season," Bettis said Sunday on ESPN. "You have to attack those teams the same way ... [and] don't beat us with interceptions."

Bettis admittedly is surprised the Steelers went 15-1 for the first time in franchise history a season after going 6-10.

"I would have never in a million years thought that we would have had this type of season," he said. "It's been amazing. It's not over, it just started."




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