Tale of Two Halves

The defense in general and Ike Taylor in particular rode the extremes in the Steelers' 24-19 win over the New York Jets.

Not too long ago, the Steelers turned around a big halftime deficit. You may remember that one.

But in the AFC Championship Game it nearly happened to them. The Steelers managed to hold on to their big halftime lead and beat the New York Jets, 24-19, for yet another Super Bowl berth.

Ryan Clark called Sunday's game a tale of two halves. Ike Taylor epitomized it.

Taylor staked the Steelers to a 24-0 lead by blitzing Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez off the edge and forcing a fumble with a sack. William Gay, the corner on the other side, scooped up the fumble and ran 19 yards for a touchdown with 1:13 left in the half.

"I didn't even know Gay picked it up till I heard the crowd," said Taylor. "Then I rolled over and saw Gay running for the touchdown."

The Jets cut the lead to 24-3 by the break, and then added a touchdown on their first possession of the second half after Taylor fell down and left Santonio Holmes wide open for a 45-yard bomb to make the score 24-10.

"I just had bad footing and slipped. I told the team it was my bad," Taylor said.

Did he and his good friend Holmes have anything to talk about after the play?

"We never even talked," Taylor said. "There's been a whole lot said about the secondary, about me, what I can't do. I took it real personal. You know what word of mouth is. So I took that game personal. Real personal."

But there would be a few difficult moments before Taylor and the Steelers could celebrate.

The Jets cut further into the lead with – what else? – another fourth-quarter safety, this one off fumbled snap. And after receiving the ensuing kickoff, the Jets drove for another touchdown, courtesy of a pick play that left Taylor and Gay talking to each other as Jerricho Cotchery walked in for a 4-yard score.

It cut the lead to 24-19, but Ben Roethlisberger completed a pair of third-down passes and the Steelers were able to kill the clock, and the Jets.

"It was just relief," said Clark. "You go from the highest of highs to a low, and then seven (Roethlisberger) did it again. Every time he has to make a play he does."

Safety Troy Polamalu also credited the offense with what was a stellar defensive performance.

"With that nine-minute drive it's a great team win," Polamalu said. "We ran the ball very well and we felt very comfortable going out there and getting them out of their game plan early. We gave up some cheap plays in the end but our offense bailed us out.

"They play AFC North football," Polamalu added about the Jets. "We know how to win AFC North games. Anytime you have AFC North style of football, you have to always outplay their defense. Our focus is always on defense. We were outplayed in the second half but we won a lot of big situational football plays."

One was a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter after the Jets had a first down at the Pittsburgh 2. Shonn Greene ran for a yard before Clark broke up a pass to the tight end in the right corner.

On third down from the 1, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau daringly left his nickel defense on the field and LaMarr Woodley batted a pass to the ground.

After several big men from both sidelines ran onto the field, LaDainian Tomlinson was stuffed for no gain and the Steelers gained possession. That they were tackled for a safety on the next play didn't diminish the defensive effort.

"Coach LeBeau always tells us every great team has to make a goal line stand once or twice a year, and that was our time," said Casey Hampton. "Everybody just stood up and did their job. It was physical and aggressive."

Like the team itself.

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