AFC Champs: From Art II's Lips To Dallas

The Steelers are going to the Super Bowl, says Mike Prisuta, because of an owner mandate that came to fruition in the 24-19 win over the Jets.

The most remarkable aspect of what became an AFC Championship Game statement by the Steelers was the basic nature of what took place.

Probably even Rex Ryan, deep down, had to appreciate the pure hat-on-hat physicality that had been unleashed upon his team.

Even if you were anticipating a resounding victory, as much of Steeler Nation seemed to be since the final seconds had ticked away on the Jets' divisional round upset of New England, did you really see what we saw at Heinz Field on Sunday night coming?

And did you still think a 24-0 Steelers lead along the way to Steelers 24, Jets 19 would have been possible after the Steelers had lost Maurkice Pouncey?

The lynchpin of the offensive line left the game for good with the game still scoreless.

The Steelers simply inserted Doug Legursky at center, and then went with Trai Essex as an extra eligible in a "Modified Bronko" and shoved the ball into the end zone.

It was a sign of things to come.

By halftime it was 24-3 Steelers, and a Steelers record crowd had watched the home team pile up a 135-1 advantage in rushing yards and a 21:04-8:56 edge in time of possession.

It got closer than that, of course, much closer.

But in the end the hole the Steelers had literally run the Jets into was simply too much to overcome.

It wasn't just Rashard Mendenhall that had his way with a Jets' run defense that – Bart Scott will like this -- couldn't stop a nosebleed through most of two quarters. Isaac Redman averaged 6.8 yards on his 4 first-half carries to Mendenhall's 5.6 on his 17 first-half attempts.

Even Ben Roethlisberger did more damage with his legs than with his arm with 13 first-half yards rushing and a touchdown.

As for the rest of his game, Roethlisberger was too often guilty of overthrows, underthrows or fumbled snaps to be considered the difference maker -- so much for Roethlisberger vs. Mark Sanchez being the Steelers' winning advantage.

Tight ends Heath Miller and Matt Spaeth were relatively quiet on the receiving end. Miller did make the clock-killing and game-clinching catch, but, really, he wasn't the difference.

Sanchez proved not to be in over his head after all in bringing the Jets back from that 24-0 deficit to within a late score of potentially having a chance to steal the game -- so much for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's schemes deciding things.

And Troy Polamalu wasn't the guy making the splash plays on a defense that got them instead from the likes of Ike Taylor, Williams Gay and LaMarr Woodley – and, so much for No. 43 reversing what had taken place in December.

No, this was Football 101, run and stop the run.

The Steelers could and the Jets couldn't.

Not even on fourth-and-goal from the Steelers' 1 with just under eight minutes left and a chance to close to within 24-17, after the ground-and-pound Jets tried pass plays on second and third down from the 1.

Looks like Art Rooney II was onto something back in the springtime when he suggested the Steelers run the ball more consistently.

"We ran the ball a little better, yeah," Rooney II said. "We can do better, but we did a good job. Rashard really came on and had a strong year."

Strong enough that Rooney II has no more specific issues that he'd like to see addressed between now and Super Bowl XLV.

"Just win," he said. "As long as we figure out a way to win, that's all I care about."

All of a sudden these Steelers are so consistent running the ball they can run it without Pouncey.

And they can win with Roethlisberger playing more like he did in Super Bowl XL than he did in Super Bowl XLIII. His passer rating against the Jets was 35.5.

That was the revelation that preceded the celebration.

Turns out the Packers will have a little more to deal with than initially anticipated in Dallas.

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