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Old 01-19-2006, 10:27 AM
TomWilkinson TomWilkinson is offline
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Default Steelers Get Another Shot at AFC Title

The AFC Championship game has not brought fond memories to the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent years. They have lost their last four, 1995, 1998, 2002, and 2005. In nearly every one of those game turnovers killed them.

Kordell Stewart threw three interceptions and lost a fumble as the Steelers couldn't hold a 14-7 lead in that 24-21 loss to John Elway's Broncos at Three Rivers Stadium. "That's the one you wish you had back because there was no reason for you to have to throw the football like that," Jerome Bettis said.

Stewart was intercepted three more times and the Steelers lost a fumble in their 24-17 loss to New England in 2002. And the Steelers had five turnovers, including three interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger, as the Patriots beat them 41-27 last year after Pittsburgh came in at 16-1.
The Broncos had 36 takeaways during the season, second only to the Bengals' 44 in the AFC, and they forced New England into 5 last week. "Defensively, they can pressure you," Head Coach Bill Cowher said. "You're going to see all 11 guys at the line of scrimmage sometimes you're going to see the safeties and everybody up there. You better be able to protect, you better be able to handle the pressure, you better be able to sit in the pocket at times. You may have three-and-outs, you may have to punt, just don't make a bad play."

The big key for Pittsburgh this week will be Ben Roethlisberger's ability to protect the ball. Roethlisberger was 6-of-7 on an 84-yard touchdown drive that opened their 21-18 upset victory Sunday in Indianapolis.

This week, Cowher said, "We are going to be able to go as far as he can take us."

"I have no problem with that because I want to come out and take care of the things I have to deal with," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "If you don't turn the ball over and you do the things you're supposed to do, you give your team a better chance of winning."

Roethlisberger's 124.7 passer rating is the best in the playoffs. His record this season (11-3) isn't as good as that of a year ago (14-1), but he is a better quarterback.

"It's night and day," Ward said. "Last year, it was overwhelming for him sometimes. I really think he got caught up a little bit with the notoriety and magnitude of the game. This year, he understands the offense and is starting to trust his guys. He's not really putting it on his shoulders."
Tom Wilkinson
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