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Old 01-12-2009, 10:41 AM   #1
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Default Steelers crush Bolts, secure AFC title spot

Steelers crush Bolts, secure AFC title spot
Monday, January 12, 2009

Willie Parker ran with the kind of burst that had made him a Pro Bowler in the previous two seasons, and Ben Roethlisberger answered any questions about how he would play in his first game since sustaining a concussion.

The defense was unrelenting at least before the game had been put away and the Steelers got several big plays from their special teams.

Playing as complete a game as they have all season, the Steelers beat the visiting San Diego Chargers, 35-24, on Sunday in front of a frenzied crowd of 63,899.

The Steelers and Ravens will meet for the third time this season when Baltimore visits Heinz Field next Sunday with the AFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

"It would be a big game if it were a scrimmage," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

The Steelers (13-4) trailed the Chargers (9-9) early, but they broke open the AFC divisional playoff game by scoring 21 unanswered points. They dominated the third quarter, controlling the ball for all but 17 seconds of the period as San Diego ran just one play it resulted in an interception and by the end of it, there was little doubt that the Steelers would advance to the AFC title game.

Parker rushed for 146 yards the third highest total in Steelers' postseason history and two touchdowns.

Roethlisberger passed for 181 yards and a touchdown as the Steelers did something they could not do in a regular-season win over the Chargers: put the ball into the end zone.

The Steelers' first score came on a 67-yard punt return by Santonio Holmes. The Steelers' punt coverage team, meanwhile, recovered a fumble deep in Chargers territory on a play that summed up how disastrous the third quarter proved to be for the visitors. Mitch Berger's punt bounced off the helmet of Eric Weddle, leading to the turnover.

The Steelers do not get much time to savor Tomlin's first playoff win. What promises to be a punishing game with Baltimore awaits.

"Both teams know what's at stake," Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel said. "It's going to be very, very physical."

"It's not going to be a street fight," Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said. "It's going to be a war."

The Steelers looked like they were going to get everything they could handle from the Chargers, who took a five-game winning streak into yesterday's game.

San Diego needed just four plays to cover 75 yards on the first possession of the game. Philip Rivers capped the drive with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson.

Just as unlikely as the Chargers moving the ball with such unsettling ease against the No. 1 defense in the NFL: Roethlisberger setting up the tying touchdown with his left foot.

The Steelers lined up as if they were going for it on fourth down from the Chargers' 34-yard line, but Roethlisberger punted the ball, and it was downed on San Diego's 9.

San Diego went three-and-out, and Holmes burned them with a big play in the return game.

A failed fake punt attempt by the Steelers set up a San Diego field goal in the second quarter and gave the Chargers a 10-7 lead. The Steelers answered before the end of the first half. Roethlisberger led them on a seven-play, 66-yard drive that Parker finished with a 3-yard touchdown run.

After taking their first lead of the game, the Steelers took control of the game in the third quarter.

On the first possession of the second half, Roethlisberger directed a 13-play, 77-yard drive. Roethlisberger completed 5 of 6 passes on the drive, including an 8-yarder to tight end Heath Miller for a touchdown.

"We wanted to come out of the locker room and establish a tone for the second half," Tomlin said.

San Diego looked like it was going to get back into the game after Darren Sproles returned the ensuing kickoff 63 yards. The Steelers' defense, however, forced a turnover as Keisel tipped a Rivers pass that Larry Foote intercepted at the 21-yard line.

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Old 01-12-2009, 11:03 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers crush Bolts, secure AFC title spot

Great victory by the team and IMO it was the most complete game we played all year.
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