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PITTSBURGH -- THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS STARED STRAIGHT AT DEFEAT SATURDAY; IT WAS JETS' PLACE KICKER DOUG BRIEN WHO BLINKED.



Published: Sat, January 15, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers stared straight at defeat Saturday; it was Jets' place kicker Doug Brien who blinked.

Brien, whose field goal in overtime last week knocked the San Diego Chargers out of the postseason, missed two field-goal attempts in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter at Heinz Field, preserving a 17-all tie and sending the AFC Divisional playoff game to overtime.

In the extra session, Steelers place kicker Jeff Reed had 20-20 vision.

His 33-yard field goal with 3:56 remaining in overtime gave the Steelers a pulsating 20-17 victory and sent them into the AFC Championship Game here next Sunday.

"I don't know if it's hit me yet," said Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher immediately after the game. "We're awfully lucky to get through this game. We have a lot to correct if we want to win next week. But, we're happy to be playing next week."

Missed opportunities

Brien, who has four game-winning field goals in his career, came on to attempt a 47-yard kick with just more than two minutes remaining in regulation. But his kick hit the crossbar and bounced back into the end zone.

On came the Steelers, with two timeouts remaining and good field position, at their 37-yard line.

But, on the first play, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger overthrew Plaxico Burress and was intercepted by David Barrett, giving New York possession at the Steelers' 37.

The Jets picked up one first down and settled the ball on the left hashmark at the Pittsburgh 24.

Again, Brien stepped onto the field, this time for a 43-yard attempt. But his kick sailed wide left, ending regulation and sending the game into overtime.

The Jets took the first possession and punted after six plays.

Calm under pressure

Pittsburgh took over at its 13 with 12:15 remaining in overtime.

Roethlisberger, with the exception of one poorly thrown ball, displayed the same calmness and steadiness as he had in directing the Steelers to a 15-1 finish in the regular season.

He completed three passes to Hines Ward, including a key 17-yarder on third down that gave Pittsburgh a first down at midfield.

From there, seven of the next eight plays were rushes by Duce Staley, Jerome Bettis and Vernon Haynes, that advanced the ball to the Jets' 15. On fourth-and-one, after a timeout by New York to try to ice him, Reed kicked the ball just inside the right upright.

The Jets' Santana Moss and Reggie Tongue nearly broke the Steelers' hearts and ended their Super Bowl hearts, with long returns for touchdowns.

The first came late in the second quarter, with the Steelers ahead 10-3.

Pittsburgh drove from its 20 following a punt to its 40, where Roethlisberger, on third-and-three, threw a pass in the left flat that was dropped by Vernon Haynes.

After a false start penalty, Chris Gardocki punted to Moss. The former Miami (Fla.) standout took the ball at the 25, moved to his left and turned upfield, outrunning the Steelers' punt coverage team untouched for the touchdown.

Brien's extra point tied the score at 10 with three minutes remaining in the half.

Then, in the third quarter, Roethlisberger made a big mistake.

On second-and-10 from the Jets' 33, Roethlisberger made a move to avoid a rush and threw downfield for Antwaan Randle El. The ball was underthrown and the Jets' Reggie Tongue intercepted.

Tongue took off immediately, reached a sprint about the 30-yard line and raced the remainder of the 86 yards untouched to the end zone, making it 17-10 with 3:52 remaining in the quarter.

Opening salvo

Pittsburgh took the lead on its second possession of the game, driving 37 yards in seven plays, good enough for Reed's 18th consecutive field goal, a 45-yarder with 5:18 remaining in the first quarter.

Then came a turnover the Jets couldn't afford.

Two plays after the kickoff, on second-and-10 from the New York 32, Chad Pennington attempted a pass to Santana Moss, who was being covered by Russell Stuvaints.

Who Pennington didn't account for was Troy Polamalu, sitting in a zone between the line of scrimmage and Moss.

Polamalu made the pick and ran over New York running back Curtis Martin on his way back to the Jets' 25.

Five plays later, Jerome Bettis bulled his way into the end zone from the 3. Bettis ran three times on the drive, accounting for 16 yards.

New York scored on its next possession, moving 11 plays but gaining only 38 yards.

The Jets had a first down at the Pittsburgh 17, but lost yardage on three consecutive plays. Pennington was sacked twice, by Chris Hoke and then by Aaron Smith, which sandwiched a 1-yard loss on a carry by Martin.

On both sacks, Pennington had time to make a throw, but solid coverage by the Steelers downfield forced him to hold onto the ball too long, allowing Pittsburgh's rushers the opportunity to hunt him down.

Doug Brien came on to kick a 42-yard field goal, cutting the Steelers' lead to 10-3 with 10:33 remaining before halftime.




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