Steelers quotebook

The Pittsburgh Steelers advanced to the Super Bowl with a 34-17 win over the Denver Broncos. Here's what the coach and players had to say after the game:

Pittsburgh Steelers, Bill Cowher

Well, I will say this: I can't give enough credit to our coaching staff and our players, and that was a good Denver Broncos football team, and Mike Shanahan is a class act, and to be able to come in here and do that is a tribute to the players.

We have a young quarterback who didn't play young today. I can't say enough about this football team. We traveled a hard road and grew as a football team, and individually, and now we have an opportunity and hopefully we can finish this season off with one more win.

Q. Can you talk about how Ben has really carried this team even though he's so young and inexperienced?

COACH COWHER: You know, he really, he's very composed. You can see it from last year and this year. It's night and day. I think throughout the course of these playoffs, I think we're a football team. We have had really great weeks of work. We're playing our best football at the right time of the year. It was tough to do what we had to do to go to the three places and win those games. They were all challenges in themselves. This is a very grounded and resilient group of guys. We've never taken anything for granted and looked beyond the next game. I think it's allowed us to have a great focus for that challenge of that week. I give a lot of credit. We have kind of had tunnel vision throughout the process.

Q. Bill, you have been very successful on the road. What's been the key?

COACH COWHER: The focus maybe has been greater, maybe the sense of urgency. At home you think you're going to have it because of the crowd. We kind of looked at that as a challenge. We have been pretty much underdogs every game we have been in and these guys relish that position.

Q. Bill, can you talk a little bit about moving forward a little bit.

COACH COWHER: It hasn't gnawed at me. It is what it is. I can't do anything about it. I don't want other people to be stuck to me. You can say anything you want about me and the failures I have had. That's fine. I understand it's part of this business. I try to seize each year and take each game and this group of guys and make them be as good as they can be. We have a great coaching staff and a group of guys that work. Like I said, we need to go and win more game. No one ever remembers who lost the Super Bowl.

Q. What do you think was the turnaround?

COACH COWHER: It was a margin of error. We had to get back to basics and make everybody accountable. We had to look within. These guys were able to do that. The Chicago game was a big game for us establishing ourselves as a running football team. We started to get Ben back at that time, too, when he came back from his injuries. The fact that we have been able to practice and have everybody healthy. You can just tell in practice, we have had some of the best practices going back to training camp these last three or four weeks.

Q. Have you felt any different as a coach in this playoff match?

COACH COWHER: No, the experience of having been there, I think there's something to be said for that. Like I said, last year was very much there, and I think very much with our football team. A lot of guys. We know -- no one was looking at anything more than this game. A lot of things will be defined come Monday. Don't worry about that. A lot of guys that went through it last year didn't want to go through that same feeling again. They worked too hard to get here. I want to make sure they remember that also and two weeks from today because, like I said, no one remembers who lost the Super Bowl.

Q. Talk about your emotions for Jerome Bettis.

COACH COWHER: I've got so much respect for Jerome and what he's brought to this football team. My relationship with him is he's a classy guy, and he has been such an inspiration. We talked about the Detroit thing, and that really had been put aside, but it's very fitting that we're going back to his hometown.

Q. Bill, did you put in more time this week planning for Denver' rush than you normally would?

COACH COWHER: I think one of the best things that happened to us was playing in Indianapolis on Monday night. From that game on, we realized we had to get better playing against the noise. We went up to Minnesota a couple weeks later and never had much of an issue. I think that's helped a lot. We've gone into some arenas right now and had plenty experience going to these places. Indianapolis was loud, Cincinnati was loud. When you hear the people today you start to feel like we're at home because it seems like we have been there the last five or six weeks.

Q. How good has Joey Porter been the last two months?

COACH COWHER: Joey is an inspiration out there. Our linebackers as a whole, they play with so much emotion. They lost their composure a little today, but they play hard. Joey is a leader for the football team, and I thought they played great today.

Q. It was a show of confidence of Ben, obviously?

COACH COWHER: It's easy when he's throwing it like he has been. He's had some issues with his hand and knee. We would like to think our running game is going to be there as well and get in a situation where you can get a lead and shorten the game. We were not very successful with that in the third or fourth quarter. Ben has made big throws. We had to have them. Talk about him throwing 20 times, but half of them are going to be third-down plays. He's a selfless guy and he will do whatever you ask him to do.

Q. When Ben was drafted out of Miami he was expected to sit on the bench and learn for a year and maybe take over. With that in mind, are you kind of surprised at his level of his development?

COACH COWHER: You almost have to be to a certain extent, but when you get around Ben, he's much more mature than his age would indicate. He's very much in control. He's a great competitor. He's got a great feel for the game and a lot of self-confidence, and so this kid has been successful, you know, all of his life. I don't think he knows what not having success is. That's something, I want to be part of a team that shows him that. We'll keep riding his coattails and hopefully there will be more to come.

Q. Was throwing to Cedrick Wilson part of the game plan going in?

COACH COWHER: It kind of unfolded that way.

Q. As far as the defensive game, you dropped more into coverage, why did you think that would be successful against the Broncos?

COACH COWHER: Obviously, at the end we didn't want to give up some big plays. Jake is one of those guys where if you define it for him, he makes quick decisions. We tried to mix it up. We tried to bring pressure as the situation dictated, and so we did what we.

Q. Bill, it seems like teams in this league change coaches every three or four years. Why are you the exception?

COACH COWHER: Look at the ownership. Mr. Rooney is a football guy. He wanted this business, and he was very supportive through the three nonplayoff years, and I'm very appreciative of that, and will always understand that and appreciate that patience. There's nothing greater, and nothing drives me more than to hopefully be able to hand him the first trophy. Nothing would make me more satisfied than to be able to do that.

Q. For the first half you guys scored every time you had the ball. Is that about as good an offense as you could have had?

COACH COWHER: It was big. We made some big throws and Ben did a good job of taking what they give us. His decision-making is great. Earlier, he tried to force it. Hines made a great check on the lucky one. I said "Let's not go there and be careful with this thing." He did good. Ben was very much in control of himself out there.

Q. How thankful were you when he was available when you drafted him?

COACH COWHER: We were fortunate.

Q. Did you think he would be back then?

COACH COWHER: I can't remember. We were hoping, but --

Q. Bill, your challenge came awful early in the game, Willie Parker fumbled. Did that play into it or was it more that you had pretty good visual evidence?

COACH COWHER: I had pretty good talk. That's pivotal. This was not a football game we could afford to fall behind. We talked about how important it was.

This football team had a tremendous scoring margin over their opponents in the first half. If you fall behind against them, it's going to be a long day. We talked very much about the importance of starting fast and taking them out. A little bit like last week at Indianapolis, this was a team that had not been behind a lot and we tried to start fast.

Q. Bill, talk about turnovers, having them and creating them.

COACH COWHER: That was big because they were plus 20 coming in, number 4 in the league in takeaways. I thought Joey's fumble was big. We talked about last year we turned it over three times in the first half against New England. The winner of the turnover/takeaways is pretty much the winner. If you don't beat yourself and hang in there, maybe you'll have a shot in the fourth quarter.

Q. How good is Roethlisberger going it be?

COACH COWHER: Time will tell.

Q. Would you suggest that this is the way to go for teams to get to the Super Bowl to go on the road?

COACH COWHER: No, I would much rather have been at Heinz Field for all these games.

Ben Roethlisberger

Ben this morning you walked over by the lake outside the hotel. What were you thinking about there? Just kind of reflecting on it?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: How beautiful Colorado is, looking at the mountains, saying "I could live here." It's beautiful. Just clearing my mind.

Q. Is that something you do before every game?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: No, because we don't always play in a state as beautiful as Colorado. I mean, the lake was right there, the mountain behind you. I was out a little early, and it was an opportunity for me to enjoy the opportunity the Lord has blessed me with today.

Q. In the first half, did the offense go as well as you expected?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: No, the first half, we came out and played well in the offense. I give a lot of credit to Denver. They're a tough defense. Even with the blitzes, they got open, and it made my job a heck of a lot easier.

Q. How much was fulfilling the promise to Jerome a driving force for you?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I would say that's been my driving force all year. I'm glad I didn't have to cry and apologize to him that I didn't get him there. I feel a lot better I can keep my promise to Jerome getting him back to Detroit.

Q. Do you feel that this year you've gone beyond simply managing to actually making plays, winning games?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: A lot of people said that if we have to throw the ball, we can't win the game. Myself, the line, we took offense of that. The last couple weeks, we've proven that's not the case. We have to keep going and make sure we remain a balanced offense like we have been doing.

Q. Are you surprised in your second year you're going to the Super Bowl?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I'm excited. I lost it last year. I had an opportunity to go and lost the game. I'm excited to have the opportunity to be blessed with it again. Luckily we do well when we go to the Super Bowl.

Q. On the touchdown pass to Cedric, did you feel like you could get Champ Bailey to bite?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: It was one of those plays where the play was called, I pumped to the inside receiver and Champ and everybody, the whole secondary jumped all over it. I threw it up to him and he made the play.

Q. Is that the first time you've used that play in the last two years?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Yeah, I talked to Coach Whisenhunt about that. I said, "Coach we're putting a lot of new stuff in. We're a pretty good offense, so let's stay with what we do. He called a great game today and the guys did a great job of exercising the plays he called.

Q. You are the second youngest player to go to the Super Bowl and you could become the youngest to win. This isn't supposed to happen to guys at your age. Talk about the significance of that, and do you feel that young?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: It is a growing up process. This year, I feel a lot more older. I'm more comfortable and not run down. We'll enjoy this for the next couple of days and get ready to play a very good NFC team, whoever it is.

Q. What was going through your head on that Champ play?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Well, it was one of those plays that the presnap sends me to the left. I didn't have the outside receiver, so I came back to Hines, and I saw Champ sitting 5 yards off. Hines was up, I threw it, and I was like Hines, just please come back to the ball and break it up. He made the play. Luckily, I wasn't chasing somebody down the other way.

Q. Talk about your reaction after the first half.

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I was fired up. I couldn't breathe afterwards. I forgot I was in Mile High. I lost my oxygen. We do that in practice, though. We improvise, and there's so many things that can go wrong when a quarterback scrambles. They did it perfectly. Hines got it. I was a little nervous, and he hauled it in, and you can't control your emotions and you get excited. I was right by the sideline.

Q. What were you doing exactly?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I have no idea.

Q. Ben, a lot has been made about you winning for Jerome. Coach Cowher doesn't have one either. I imagine that's been part of the driving force as well?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: There is quite a bit that is my motivation. My grandfather passed this summer and never got to see a Steelers game, getting Jerome back to Detroit and winning for Coach Cowher. I also want to win for the offensive linemen.

Q. 23 years old playing in the Super Bowl. Do you not want to think about how big these next two weeks are going to be?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: We have been playing the underdog role for the last six weeks. The rest of the guys around me help keep me focused, and we have that checks and balance with each other. I assume we'll continue to do that in the next two weeks.

Q. How much looser was this team, and how much easier was it this year?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: We had nothing to lose. Everyone expected us to lose the third game, the second game and this game. No one believed in us but us. We had each other's back the whole way.

Q. Ben, how big have the first quarters been in the last two games?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: If we can come out and score on the opening drive, that's big. We punted in the first half and scored every time. If you get yourself a nice lead, it helps you get comfortable.

Q. Ben, were you happy you were able to throw the ball so often today?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: You know, I don't know how many times we threw the ball today, but Coach Whisenhunt was doing a great job calling the offense. Whenever he's there, he's calling. I have to give credit to all of our guys. They're making plays. If the coach asks us to throw the ball, I'll be happy. Whatever it takes to win the game.

Q. How much of a kick did you get out of your own touchdown?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: It's different for me. Running for a touchdown isn't as exciting as throwing one. It was an identical play we ran before. They told me, keep the ball, go ahead and get around, and I saw an opening, and I dove in. It was exciting to score, but I get more excited to throw it.

Q. Coming to Denver, playing in the stadium where John Elway played, and you wear number 7 because of him. How special was that for you?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I wear number 7 because of Elway, but I tried to make sure I stayed focus on the small things, the task at hand, don't get overwhelmed. If you think about things like that, you get overwhelmed. You get caught up in it.

Q. Ben, there's a lot of quarterbacks who come into the league with great physical skills, but very few who have mastered the mental part of the game. How do you explain that for yourself?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I'm a long way from mastering anything, I'll tell you that.

Q. You're a lot farther along though?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Like I said, you have to give a lot of credit to the guys out there. They are such a big part and don't get the credit they deserve. I wish they can be standing up here talking. They're picking up blitzes that I can't see. They end up picking it up, and they've really helped my growth process a lot.

Q. Did you take offense to being the third quarterback picked in the draft, or did you have any sort of a chip on your shoulder?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Last year I did, because it was fresh. Now, I don't. I'm happy with the situation I'm in. It fuels the fire when people see you as the third best quarterback.

Q. You would have been 9 when Cowher started in Pittsburgh. What is your earliest memory?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: I don't even remember.

Q. Do you feel like your passing is something you have to worry about?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: You know, with the way that we always run the ball, we're always very successful running the ball. When it doesn't happen, it seems like the passing game steps up and vice versa. Hopefully we can keep the defense on their heels. You never know though. It's one of those things that one day one part could be clicking or it isn't. You never know until you get out on the field and play.

Q. Talk about the conversions of third downs.

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: From what it felt like out there, it felt like we converted a lot of third downs when we tried to convert them. We really got a lot of time to throw the ball, found the open receiver. They did the little bit extra they were supposed to do to get open.

Q. Ben, you guys have embraced this underdog thing so much. What's going to happen when you're favored in the Super Bowl?

BEN ROETHLISBERGER: We'll probably still think we're underdogs. We know, we're going into it believing in each other, and if no one else believes in us, that's fine with us. Because we know the mentality that we need to take into the game, and that's the mentality we'll take into the game.

WR Hines Ward

Q. You broke up that ball that was almost an interception by Champ Bailey.

HINES WARD: Champ, playing with him for so many years in Georgia, Ben looked to the left, and when he came back to me, I figured he was already driving on it. That's not how you want to start the game off, so I kind of grabbed his arm a little bit, and I think I grabbed his left arm, and he tipped the ball up with his right. I stayed with the play. You always know where Lynch is. I figured I might as well catch the ball since he's going to knock the crap out of me. Luckily for us, it wasn't a turnover and it kept the momentum going.

Q. Is it an exaggeration to say it's a game changing play that early?

HINES WARD: I don't know. Me knowing Champ, I knew he was driving on that ball. If he would have picked that ball, it would -- I don't know how the outcome of the game would have changed because the crowd would have got right behind it.

Q. Hines, how happy are you for Jerome Bettis to be going home to Detroit?

HINES WARD: It's gratifying. Hell, I almost cried. We both almost cried just going back to Detroit. But, you know, I told him that whatever I have to do, I mean, if it's going out there and blocking linebackers and, you know, I truly believe, not just Jerome, by guys like Kimo and Jeff Hartings, those guys put long years and time into this, they deserve opportunities to go to the Super Bowl. Jerome, he has affected, in some way, everybody on that team. Someone you can count on. I think more players were more trying to rally behind them, and make sure they did their job to get him back to Detroit. Like I said earlier, what a better way, if this is his last year, to finish his career off where it started in Detroit. We're happy to be going to the Super Bowl, but we want to win. We want to go there and win the whole thing and give him that ring, and it would be a book in the making of the Jerome Bettis story.

Q. Can you tell us what he said before the half?

HINES WARD: Kimo and Jerome got up, very emotional. All you can think about is guys sitting there and saying, if I could have done this different, or better, maybe I would have got the opportunity to get to the next level. Guys will say, remember that feeling and go out, and Jerome said "Go out and give 110 percent on every play and we'll be fine." I think today we did that. Truly, it wasn't one individual today. It was a total team effort today. From offensive line, special teams, everybody went out there and gave 110 percent, and we're moving on.

Q. How well did Ben have to throw that pass to get it to you?

HINES WARD: He had a rocket. The play was designed to go to me on a post route. I ended up running out to the corner. I adjusted my route, and he seen what I was doing, it was that trust factor that Ben and I started to come along over the season. He had a small window to get it there and he got it in that window. It went for a touchdown, but I was teasing Jerome, he had a false start penalty on the touchdown that we wanted to get, and I ended up with the tight end on the line. We made a big laugh about it on the sideline.

Q. Can you talk about the maturation process of Ben?

HINES WARD: It's his confidence. I heard Jerome mention earlier, it was last year when you're trying to put it all on your shoulders, where I have to go out and make plays by myself. I think this year is totally different. He's starting to have trust in everybody. He's not going out and saying "I have to put it all out on my shoulders." He's playing football and letting his team work for him. He does a great job managing the game, throwing the ball where it is supposed to be thrown. When you do that, you gain a lot of confidence. Guys are going to do whatever it takes to make a play for him. It's like night and day. He's playing with a lot of confidence. I know he's not putting up a lot of stats like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but he needs to be mentioned with the great quarterbacks of today. He's been the leader on this team.

Q. How is Ben a more improved quarterback this year?

HINES WARD: I don't know. I actually think last year he wanted to make sure -- he wanted to see you throwing it. Now he's throwing it before we come on our breaks. That's where you can see the maturity of him growing as a quarterback. Today on third down we completed some huge third downs. I know I had a deep end route. He threw it before seeing it. You can see the maturity, and I know he's going to get better and better. He's always talking to me on the sidelines about certain stuff. He's doing that with all the receivers. He's becoming his own leader himself, getting guys going and trying to get them on the same page.

Q. Does this team feel confident enough that you almost feel like you can't lose?

HINES WARD: Yeah. We have a lot of confidence. Maybe the world doesn't believe we can go out and win but to beat the number 1, 2, 3 seeds, you got to have confidence. We felt like we can get the job done. We have to go out and execute our game plan and make plays and everything will take care of itself. When you truly believe in it, things turn out, and we're still in it.

Q. You seem like you guys were able to complete passes to number 22 (Foxworth) all day. Was he their weakness?

HINES WARD: It's not a weakness. He's still a great cornerback. He's young, doesn't really have that experience in the playoff situation or the magnitude of the game. When you get some balls caught out, you tend to play a little soft or loose and not take chances. We wanted to exploit that. On the sidelines guys were talking about let's see if we can have a match-up problem on Foxworth. We took our chance on Champ. He's a game-changing guy, though. We have confidence in our passing game. I know people don't talk about us all. They talk about we can run and things like that. Big Ben, that's why he's Ben. The receivers, we get paid, too, we go out and make plays.

Q. Are you amazed that he was the third quarterback picked?

HINES WARD: No, you always see talent in training camp. It was just a matter of transferring it over to a game type situation. Now, he's becoming a leader. Guys, we go -- if he's out there enthused, guys around him will be enthused. He'll yell at you to make a play. That's the mentality the quarterback has to have.

Q. Is he a star or is he close?

HINES WARD: My opinion, he's a star. I don't know what more you have to be. He knocked out the top three quarterbacks that are going to the Pro Bowl. I would think he's a star quarterback.

Q. Compare and contrast last year and this year.

HINES WARD: It was tough, I heard Jerome saying that Ben took that last AFC championship game hard. And he said "Come back the next year I'll do whatever it takes to get you back there." Jerome has touched everybody on this team, but I told him I wouldn't cry for him this year whatever the outcome. I got killed for that. Like I say, it couldn't happen to a greater guy. Jerome is a true champ. In my opinion he's done wonders for me in my career. I want to do whatever it takes to win the game. We're happy to go to the Super Bowl but we want to go win it and bring the championship back to the city of Pittsburgh.

Q. Hines, coming into this whole season, Cowher never won a road playoff game. Did he approach it any different?

HINES WARD: A little bit, as far as a sense of practicing and how he -- they seem to say a lot of coaches get real uptight. We're out there joking and laughing. Maybe that's a different approach. I think a lot of credit goes to the veteran leadership on the team. It seems like this year in all playoff games, the teams who turn the ball over the least wins the ball game, and that's something Coach Cowher has always kept preaching to all of us. When Willie fumbled the ball, he got chewed out, but just to get that monkey off his back saying he couldn't do it on the road, he was 1-4 in the championship game, it was a gratifying feeling to prove everybody wrong.

Q. Do you feel it's easier playing the role of the underdog?

HINES WARD: Yes, because of expectations. We were 15-1 last year. We didn't go out there and perform like we were supposed to. We were really supposed to have lost the Jets game last year and didn't play particularly well. This year there was no expectation. We were the 6th seed. Nobody expected much out of us. Going to Cincinnati where we played and going to Indy, so there was more pressure on them than us. We went out and played ball and everything worked out the way it's supposed to.

Q. Have you ever seen Ben make that kind of a throw?

HINES WARD: Yeah, we work on scrambling drills all the time. If you watch him in the pregame warm-up, he's always rolling out, always trying to throw it out in the air, and we had a little small window. He hit the middle of the bulls eye. That's something he practiced on as far as because that's the type of quarterback he is. He can make plays outside the pocket more like Jake. He practiced on it. RB Jerome Bettis

Q. Jerome, all those summer workouts with Bob, was it worthwhile?

JEROME BETTIS: It makes it worthwhile. It makes it everything we as a team have had to go through, and personally, myself, I have had to go through, through the course of my career, it makes it all worth it.

Q. Going back to Detroit was a nice theory, how realistic was it going, having not been to a Super Bowl yet?

JEROME BETTIS: You know the possibility exists. We had been on the doorstep a couple of times, but we were really thinking that we had something special when we went into the playoffs. We knew we had a good football team. Because of the situation we were faced with, we were going to be on the road, and we dialed it in and said, it's fine, we haven't had a problem in the road. Once we got to the playoffs, we knew it was a realistic possibility.

Q. At 7 and 5 after those losses, were you getting nervous Detroit wasn't going to happen?

JEROME BETTIS: Yeah, no question about it. At 7-5 the only way we can get in now is wild card. We've got to win all of our games but Coach Cowher, sensed that everybody was a little bit nervous, and he brought us in and calmed everybody down and showed us, hey, it's one game at a time. It's not about where we're going to figure in. Let's just win one game and see what happens. That was the philosophy from that point until now. It's been just about one game.

Q. Talk about what did you tell your teammates last night?

JEROME BETTIS: I told them -- I asked them for two things. I asked them to give me 110 percent, and if you walk away from this game giving that, I'm going to say thank you, shake your hand, and give you a big hug and tell you how much I appreciate it. The second thing I told them was get me home.

Q. How was your quarterback today?

JEROME BETTIS: He was incredible. He did everything he had to do, and, you know, from last year to this year, he's a different quarterback. You know, he has an understanding of what he needs to do to manage his football team and the plays he makes with his feet and throwing the ball. He's amazing. He's definitely our leader.

Q. Jerome, he said on the field that he told you last year he was going to get you to Detroit. Do you remember that conversation? When was it?

JEROME BETTIS: It was in the middle of tears. We were on the sideline of the AFC game and the clock was winding down, and it was obvious we had lost the game, and he was boo-hooing, and he turned to me and said "Come back, I'll get you to the Super Bowl. Just come back, give me one more year," and it meant a lot.

Q. Was Bill different this time around than he had been in the previous playoff runs? Did you notice anything different?

JEROME BETTIS: No, no, no, I think we had different circumstances. So, it made for a different set of thoughts in term of what he had to do, and how he had to present the information to us, so I think the circumstances being different, I think that was the benefit for us. I think us at 7-5, understanding that every game at that point is going to be a playoff game got us battle-tested, ready for the playoffs a lot earlier because we turned it on in the latter part of the season we were in playoff mode, and that's the way we worked on it.

Q. Tell us, what's great about Detroit.

JEROME BETTIS: What's great about Detroit? It's a great city, and you all will see when you get there in two weeks. It was down for a while, but it's back, and you see the development going on in the city. There's a sense of ownership in the city. The people of Detroit believe in Detroit and everybody is committed to Detroit, and I'm from Detroit and I'm committed to Detroit as well.

Q. How much did you guys want to get to the Super Bowl for Coach Cowher?

JEROME BETTIS: That was big. He's been criticized for not being able to win the big one, and not being able to get back to the Super Bowl, so I think it's great. That was a thought for us, too. We wanted to come out and play for him. He's been our leader, and, you know, he's been supportive of us when, you know, we failed, and didn't get things done, and he's been, you know, the number one supporter, and it's just great that we're able to win and get another opportunity to give him another opportunity and another crack at that elusive Super Bowl ring.

Q. Will the Super Bowl be your last game?

JEROME BETTIS: That's a great question. I don't know. I'll look at it. The last thing I want to do is diminish anything by even thinking about that. I think this is an incredible opportunity we have so I'm going to wait until after the Super Bowl and think about it.

Q. What's it been like hearing that silence from these crowds?

JEROME BETTIS: It's been incredible. Actually, that's been fueling our fire to hear that crowd. Everybody is saying, this is the loudest outdoor stadium so they're going to get a little bit different. We're thinking, okay, all right. That's great. The first quarter, loud; second quarter, a little louder; third quarter, little louder; and fourth quarter, can't really hear them. We take pride.

Q. Jerome, what did you tell the team last night?

JEROME BETTIS: There was two things I told them. I told them to give me 110 percent. If they can do that, that's all I can ever ask for, and the second one, I asked them to get me back to Detroit. \

Q. What makes the Steelers team different than ones of the past few years?

JEROME BETTIS: I think we've learned from the mistakes of the past, and we haven't been overconfident and taking anybody for granted. I think that's because of the position we were in, working our way up from the bottom, knowing we can't take anybody for granted. Everybody is supposed to beat us. It's us against the world, and that locker room, we really gelled and felt that we could get it done. Only the guys in the locker room believe that and that was enough.

Q. Do you think the team was even better this year?

JEROME BETTIS: No question, I think it's a lot easier when there's no expectations. Look at the coaches, they had a lot of expectations on them. Last year we were 15-1 with a lot of expectations, so we were in that situation before. We know what it feels like to have that pressure on you, and we came out, hey, it's us against everybody. Nobody expects us to win, nobody is picking us to win, that's fine. As long as we believe it and the coaches give us a great game plan, we'll execute it and come out on top.

Q. When you decided two years ago to accept the diminished role and stay in Pittsburgh did you believe it could end up like this?

JEROME BETTIS: I knew we had a great football team. I wasn't selfish in the sense that I had to be the starter. I understood that team concept, I could still provide a lot for this football team, and I was confident in my abilities, but I knew the opportunity would present itself for me, and I wanted to stay in Pittsburgh. It's a great place, team and organization. It starts from the top. I really believe it's the best place for me.

Q. Everybody said there's a big difference between Ben from last year to this year. If you had to measure two things, what would they be?

JEROME BETTIS: The first thing is him managing the football team and understanding he doesn't have to go out and win the football game. The first time you're in the big game, and you look back at the legends of the game and the Elways and Montanas and see these guys leading their teams down, and the drives, and all those kinds of things. What you don't realize is that was during the process of the game. It's things they had done all year long. I think he understood that the second time around. Going to the first time he wanted to win the game and that's not the way you approach the playoffs, so I think from that standpoint it was one, and this year, he's been incredible and he hasn't faltered at all, and he's been incredible. He made a proposal to me a while ago to get me some footballs of all these games. He was going to get me the game ball of every game, and he's kept his promise. He promised me last year he was going to get me to the Super Bowl and every game ball, so he's 100 percent of his promises. So, he's special in my book, I'll tell you that.

S Troy Polamalu

General

"Our defense just persevered, and that's what great teams do. We still have one more step to go, but we'll enjoy this. We're a road team. We're the Pittsburgh Steelers, it doesn't matter [where we play]. We have fans everywhere."

G Alan Faneca

On Roethlisberger

"He's everything you want in a quarterback. We wouldn't be where we are today without him leading our offense. I think he's just more relaxed this year, and it comes through experience. It's not just X's and O's. He still understands the basics, but he also has that game-feel. I think teams know we're going to try to run the ball on them, and they want to make Ben beat them. These past few weeks, Ben's been doing just that."

OLB Joey Porter

On Current Position

"We just need to worry about our own story, and not get caught up in what other people are doing. We've been in this game plenty of times, we felt like we had a great opportunity and we capitalized on it."

General

"It hasn't sunk in yet but we are going to the dance, everyone said we couldn't do it being the sixth seed. We just took the scenic route, it is my third time in the AFC Championship but we finally won."

"I've seen people hold this trophy up in my house twice, I'm just happy this is what it's all about.

On defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau

"He comes in and makes everything easier for us, he is just one of those guys you don't want to let done. You know his system works because it has worked everywhere he has been. He is the type of coach you would do anything for.

On success of defense

"It's all about pressure, we really got after him (Jake Plummer). I felt like I could beat their tackles off the end and was able to keep containment when he would bootleg to my side.

DE Kimo von Oelhoffen

General

"The offense won the game for us today, they kept us on the field and held on to the ball. They won the game for us. We just played football just like we did the last six weeks. Nothing special that's just how good the Steeler's are."

WR Cedric Wilson

On Game Plan

"I didn't know I was going to be featured, they stacked the box and the coaches left it up to the receivers to make plays down the field."

On the defensive end Domonique Foxworth

"You always want to go after the young guys, and we were successful against him. This is just a stepping stone for us, we have one more game and we have to make the best of it. I'm very excited, very happy and I'm going to the Super Bowl."

LB Larry Foote

General

"It's been a dream all year leading up to this point especially knowing it's (the Super Bowl) is in my hometown. We had some bumps in the road but we got here. (Jerome Bettis) Demanded that we bring him home and we did it."

POSTGAME NOTES:

Quickly… Pittsburgh has now tied Buffalo and Denver for the most Super Bowl appearances by an AFC team with six (only Dallas has more with eight). Pittsburgh is the first No. 6 seed in either conference to advance to the Super Bowl; the previous lowest seeds to advance have been five No. 4's (Dallas in 1975, Oakland in 1980, Buffalo in 1992, Tennessee in 1999 and Baltimore in 2000)… The Steelers are now 6-7 in AFC title games, tying their offensive best with 34 points (matched a 34-5 win over Houston in 1978), while Denver drops to 6-2 in AFC Championship games.

Quick Stats. Pittsburgh held Denver (97) to almost 62 yards below its rushing average on the season (158.7); while Denver held the Steelers (90) to 49 yards fewer than their rushing norm (138.9), Pittsburgh had 275 passing yards, 92 higher than its season average (182.9). This was the seventh time Pittsburgh scored 30+ points in a game this year (6-1 record); this was the third time Denver had allowed over 30 (0-3). The Steelers have allowed just 239 rushing yards in three playoff games… This was just the third time in 2005 that Denver failed to score 20 points in a game (1-2)… Pittsburgh improved to 9-2 on the road, including all three playoff wins, and is now 11-1 in games decided by eight or more points; Denver fell to 10-2 in the latter.

Streaks-N-Stuff… Pittsburgh has now won seven straight games, including five consecutive road wins, while Denver suffered its first loss after five straight wins, and had an 11-game home winning streak snapped as well.

Home's Usually Cookin'. Denver dropped to 12-3 all-time at home in the playoffs, as a five-game winning streak was snapped. This was Denver's worst home playoff loss (17 points), as the previous two were by a combined 10 points. Pittsburgh has now administered two of Denver's three losses here (winning 24-17 in 1984).

Attendance Record. The 76,174 in attendance today was the fifth largest crowd in INVESCO Field history, but was a record number for a playoff game in Denver, eclipsing the 76,105 who saw the Broncos beat New England, 22-17, on Jan. 4, 1987.

Series Stuff. Denver now leads the all-time series by 14-9-1 (11-6-1 regular season), as the Steelers have tied it at 3-3 in the playoffs. The last three playoff games in the series had been decided by a combined 11 points.

Turnover Turnaround. Denver forced New England into five turnovers last week, leading to 24 points (and were plus-4 in the game); today, Pittsburgh went without a turnover while forcing Denver into four (two fumbles, two interceptions), leading to 21 Steeler points.

Inside-The-Stats. Pittsburgh finished the game 10-of-16 on third down, converting eight of its first nine tries; that included 5-for-5 on 3rd-&-7 or longer.

Trailing At Home. The Steelers took the lead with 4:11 left in the first and never relinquished it, leading 49:11 in this game; coming into today, Denver had trailed for a total of just 47:49 all season at home in nine previous games, and for just 14:22 over the last eight contests (San Diego led 33:27 back on September 18). The Chargers were the only other team to hold a double-digit lead over the Broncos at home this year (14-3; Denver rallied for a 20-17 win). Only five of 10 opponents led Denver at home in 2005 (NE twice, SD, BALT and PITT).


Steel City Insider Top Stories