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mesaSteeler
01-16-2011, 01:02 AM
Bires: Jets or Pats? It doesn't matter
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sports_details/article/1501/2011/january/16/bires-jets-or-pats-it-doesnt-matter.html
By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times

Sunday January 16, 2011 12:26 AM

James Farrior celebrate as he walks off the field after the Steelers' 31-24 win. Times photo by KEVIN LORENZI

PITTSBURGH — As the Steelers triumphantly walked off Heinz Field after another classic moment in franchise history, many fans were yelling “Jets! Jets! Jets!”

But as they celebrated in their locker room, the Steelers wouldn’t bite when asked who they prefer to play in the AFC Championship Game.

No doubt, the Steelers hope to be at home next Sunday against loud-mouth Rex Ryan and the rest of the New Yorkers. But really, the Steelers don’t mind if they have to play in New England against the Brady Bunch.

These Steelers believe they can beat anybody still standing in the Super Bowl tournament.

They aren’t perfect.

They don’t always win pretty.

But they sure do know how to win.

Somehow, some way, they find ways to get the job done.

So today as they bask in the glory of another win over the archrival Ravens, they’ll tune in to the Jets-Patriots game and enjoy watching it without worrying who wins.

“We are family, and we have been since I’ve been here,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Saturday night after the 31-24 thriller against the Ravens. “We’ll fight and do anything for each other.”

That’s pretty much been the case for the Steelers since Chuck Noll was hired in 1969.

No team has won more division titles than the Steelers (20) since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970.

No team has played in the AFC Championship Game more than the Steelers. Next Sunday will be their 15th appearance.

And, of course, no one has won more Super Bowls than the Steelers (six).

“It says a lot about (director of football operations) Kevin Colbert for getting the right group of guys together,” defensive Brett Keisel said. “It says a lot about Coach (Mike) Tomlin for the way he leads us. And it says a lot about the guys in the locker room.”

Keisel is among the veterans like Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, James Farrior and Troy Polamalu who’ve made it to the AFC Championship four times over the past seven seasons. They all had a hand in their latest dramatic win over the Ravens.

But so did many of the younger Steelers.

D-end Ziggy Hood, a second-year pro, had a huge sack of Joe Flacco on the Ravens’ last-gasp attempt to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.

Third-year running back Rashard Mendenhall, who was on injured reserve when the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2008, scored two TDs, including the game-winner.

Rookie wide receiver Emmanual Sanders caught four passes for 54 yards.

And fellow rookie wideout Antonio Brown was on the receiving end of the most important play — a 58-yard late fourth quarter catch — in a game full of big plays.

“It was a signature Steelers win,” Tomlin said. “A lot of people put their hand in the pile. Every man in a helmet was a potential playmaker.”

That was especially true on the offensive line where both starting tackles, Flozell Adams and Jonathan Scott, had to leave the game at times with injury and illness. But Trai Essex and Doug Legursky came off the bench to lend a hand

Regardless of who the Steelers play next week, they’ll face a team that they’ve already lost to this year, at home no less. The Patriots routed the Steelers, 39-26 in November. The Jets edged the Steelers, 22-17 in December.

But that’s ancient history.

Either way, the Steelers will be ready for whoever they play next.

Mike Bires can be reached at mbires@timesonline.com.