Give and take

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> With all due respect to the likes of Al Michaels and Franco Harris, miracles or other events of biblical proportions don't occur between the lines at sporting events.<br><br> Sorry, you may be buying miracles or immaculate events, I'm not.

But there are certainly times when fate seems to step in and almost will a team to victory.

That may have been what happened to the Steelers here Saturday in their 20-17 AFC Divisional Playoff game against the New York Jets at Heinz Field.

How else can you explain a longtime NFL placekicker like Doug Brien missing not one, but two field goals in the game's final two minutes, either of which could have ended the Steelers' season?

"I've never seen anything like that," said Steelers linebacker Larry Foote. "I'm not going to say that it was a miracle, because that's crippled people getting up and walking, the blind seeing. But that's the closest thing to it I've ever been around."

But to call it an outright miracle - that would be a bit much.

The Steelers didn't play anything close to a good game Saturday. In fact, the game had all the look and feel of their loss to the New England Patriots in the 2001 AFC Championship game.

Though the Jets didn't do much offensively against the Steelers, they led 17-10 heading into the final quarter thanks to punt and interception returns for touchdowns.

When you've won your 15th consecutive game and 11th consecutive home game, it's not hard to be confident.

The Steelers did everything they could to give Saturday's game away. In that respect, maybe the miracle was that the Jets didn't accept the Steelers' generosity.

  • Ben Roethlisberger seemed to be trying to force the ball to Plaxico Burress a little too much in the first half. And to no avail, as Burress didn't catch his first pass until halfway through the third quarter.

    It wasn't until Roethlisberger started spreading the ball around a little more that the Steelers' offense started clicking.

  • By the way, a perfect example of Burress' ridiculously poor ball skills was on display on the long pass into the end zone where he was in one-on-one coverage.

    The 6-5 Burress leaped all of three inches off the ground, terribly misjudging the ball's trajectory.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, I wouldn't pay big money to that receiver. There are other guys out there who can run deep routes.

  • The Jets spent a good portion of the game in a 4-4 defense - especially on first down. Yet the Steelers still rushed for nearly 200 yards.

    If Roethlisberger would have had anything close to a good game, the Steelers would have won in a blowout.

    Roethlisberger's passes seemed to be sailing on him - and he seemed, at times to be aiming the ball - but he and head coach Bill Cowher both denied broadcast reports that there was a problem with the quarterback's throwing hand.

  • In Pro Football Weekly last week, an unidentified scout was quoted as saying Steelers' safety Troy Polamalu is a liability in "space."

    Now maybe that scout was talking about outer space, but I have to wonder if he was watching the same player I've seen make six outstanding interceptions this season, including two now against Chad Pennington, who is not prone to making bad reads.

    Polamalu just read Pennington's eyes on his first quarter pick, dropping into - you guessed it - space to make a pick.

    By the way, did you notice at times Polamalu lined up one-on-one on the outside against Santana Moss, with Willie Williams dropping behind him as the "safety." I didn't get to ask him, but I'm assuming that was because they wanted to get a big jam on Moss. And Polamalu is also fast enough to run with Moss.

    There aren't too many safeties you can say that about.

  • The nation discovered Jeff Reed Saturday.

    That's 19 consecutive field goals Reed has now made, including two against the Jets.

    Reed is kicking as well as anyone in the league right now and has solved those tricky Heinz Field conditions.

    In fact, instead of letting them get into his head - ala Kris Brown - Reed has embraced Heinz Field. And on a day in which Brien missed two game winners, you appreciate just how good Reed has been.

  • Jerome Bettis ran well against the Jets, going over 100 yards. And Duce Staley looked like the same runner he had been in the team's first seven games this season.

    Though they didn't play well Saturday, the Steelers are going to be tough to beat Sunday if they run the ball like that again.

    Staley's cuts were particularly impressive. He has great patience and really made nice decisions.

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