Steelers stun Colts

The Pittsburgh Steelers have become legitimate championship contenders after beating the Indianapolis Colts, 21-18, in a zany game that sends the Steelers to Denver for the AFC Championship game.

The Steelers came out passing and took a 21-3 lead on the Colts, but the Colts battled back behind Peyton Manning, a controversial replay reversal and a fumble by Jerome Bettis that nearly resulted in a miraculous Colts win.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the first No. 6 seed to play in a conference final, but the AFC playoff tournament was destined for land mines such as the Steelers, who had to overcome a roller coaster of emotions.

With a 21-10 lead, Troy Polamalu appeared to make a diving interception to clinch a Steelers win. But as he was getting up, he kneed the football out of his hand. Even though Polamalu recovered the ball, referee Pete Morelli used replay to overturn the call, citing a still-downed knee and thereby referencing the emphasis on holding onto a pass throughout the entire action on the ground.

Manning then drove the Colts to a touchdown. Edgerrin James ran two yards for six points and Manning passed to Reggie Wayne for two more points, cutting the lead to 21-18 with 4:24 remaining.

The Steelers punted back to the Colts with 2:31 left. Manning took over at his own 18, but was sacked twice in four plays. Joey Porter was credited with 1.5 sacks and James Farrior with a half.

The Steelers had the ball first-and-goal at the Indianapolis 2 with 1:20 left. Roethlisberger handed off to Jerome Bettis, who fumbled.

Gary Brackett forced the fumble by hitting Bettis's arm with his helmet. The ball flew back and was picked up by Nick Harper, who was looking to dash for a miracle touchdown. Harper broke into the clearing but was tackled when Roethlisberger dove and grabbed his leg at the Indianapolis 42.

Rookie cornerback Bryant McFadden saved another touchdown when he knocked away a perfect pass to Wayne in the end zone. On fourth-and-2, Mike Vanderjagt badly missed a 46-yard field goal attempt that would've tied the game.

The Steelers used a game-plan built around their passing game to open up a 21-3 lead.

Roethlisberger threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle El to cap the Steelers' first possession. Roethlisberger then threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Heath Miller.

Jerome Bettis scored from a yard out late in the third quarter, but Manning answered with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Clark. That's when the game got crazy, but the Steelers held on to the win.

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