Curtis Martin may have passed Jerome Bettis on the all-time rushing list, but Bettis got the last laugh. And the victory.
The Bus was responsible for two fourth-quarter touchdowns today, one running and another on a halfback option pass to Jerame Tuman, as the Steelers pulled away from a tough and speedy New York Jets team to clinch the AFC North. Bettis finished with 57 yards on 10 carries, while Martin, who seemed nigh-unstoppable in third-and-short situations, finished with 72 yards on 24 carries.
Jets QB Chad Pennington was intercepted three times today, despite pretty good protection from the Jets offensive line. The Steelers defense bended, but it did not break, allowing only two field goals in the second half and making the big plays when they needed them. They did give up 296 yards, but they never allowed the Jets to get into the red zone, which helped decide the game.
Ben Roethlisberger has seen better days. The speed of the Jets’ defense clearly got to him, and he completed only 9 of 19 passes for 144 yards. He also threw two interceptions, though one was on a Hail Mary toss at the end of the first half that didn’t really hurt the team that much. On the Steelers’ last scoring drive, though, Roethlisberger threw a 46-yard strike to Lee Mays that put Pittsburgh on the Jets’ 17 yard line and set up Bettis’ clinching score.
Once again, the Steelers found a way to win, and they remain in position to get home field advantage for the AFC playoffs. The Jets were impressive, though. Their speed on defense is amazing, and they will be a tough out in the playoffs. I bet the Steelers don’t want to see those guys again…