Bettis flipped a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jerame Tuman three
plays after surpassing the 13,000-yard rushing mark early in the
fourth quarter, fooling what had been an impenetrable Jets defense
and sending the Steelers to team record-tying 17-6 victory Sunday.
On a day Bettis and the Jets' Curtis Martin each broke the
13,000-yard barrier, Bettis also ran for his 12th touchdown of the
season late in a decisive 14-point Pittsburgh fourth quarter.
"They made the plays, and that's what good teams do, what
championship teams do," Jets coach Herman Edwards said. "Their
guys played better than us in the fourth quarter."
Until Bettis' surprise throw, Pittsburgh's offense didn't look
Super Bowl-ready as the Steelers (12-1) were held to 19 or fewer
points for the fourth consecutive game. But they overcame a spotty
game by rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to win a club
record-tying 11th in a row. The 1975 Super Bowl champion Steelers
also won 11 straight during a 12-2 season.
"Everybody keeps waiting for us to have a letdown, but each
week someone steps up and makes big plays," wide receiver Hines
Ward said. "Really, Jerome won the game by himself."
Roethlisberger was only 9 of 19 for 144 yards but kept his
unprecedented rookie winning streak going, too, winning his 11th in
a row in the NFL and 24th straight the last two seasons, counting
his final 13 games at Miami of Ohio.
The Steelers' 15th victory in 17 games against the Jets (9-4)
secured the AFC North championship that has been a foregone
conclusion for weeks and kept them in the lead for home-field
advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
The Jets' offense constantly broke down amid an uncharacteristic
series of penalties (12 for 84 yards, all in the first half) and
breakdowns. Chad Pennington was intercepted three times, only one
fewer than he previously had all season.
"It's up to me to steer the ship in the right direction," said
Pennington, 17-of-31 for 189 yards. "Only a few plays separate the
11-1 teams from the 6-5 teams. A lot of teams have come close to
beating the Steelers, but to their credit, they do a good job of
making sure it doesn't happen."
The Jets' defense had shut out three consecutive opponents in
the second half and six this season until Bettis' throw, which
broke a 3-all tie and kept New York from being 10-3 for the first
time since 1986.
Bettis' third career touchdown pass in six attempts came on
third-and-3. He rolled to his right after taking a handoff from
Roethlisberger and casually tossed the ball to a wide-open Tuman,
who also caught Bettis' last scoring pass in 2001. Bettis also had
a TD throw in 1999.
"I got behind the safety and I couldn't see him (Bettis), I
could just see the ball coming," Tuman said. "When we practiced
it Friday it didn't look good, the throw was a little low, but he
got it up today. We had it set up perfectly -- we could hear their
defense calling out (a run)."
Bettis ran for 57 yards to push his career total to 13,037,
taking over after starter Duce Staley gained 51 yards. Martin had
24 carries for 72 yards to move past Bettis into fifth place with
13,046 yards in the first game in NFL history in which two backs
each surpassed 13,000 yards.
Only four others have more than 13,000: Emmitt Smith, Walter
Payton, Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson.
"We got together after the game and I told him congratulations
and he told me congratulations," Martin said. "You have to
appreciate consistency, and that's what he's done."
The Jets were the league's second-least penalized team until
breaking down in the first half, when the only scoring came on Jeff
Reed's 34-yard field goal for Pittsburgh following Troy Polamalu's
interception. New York threatened late in the half by driving from
its 4 to the Steelers 30, but Pennington was intercepted by James
"Everything in the world happened to us in the first half,
everything went wrong and we were still right there," Pennington
said. "We made too many mental mistakes and it begins with me."
Steelers LB Clark Haggans missed most of the game with a
groin injury. ... The Steelers are 4-0 against winning-record
opponents (Patriots, Eagles, Jaguars, Jets). ... Roethlisberger has
thrown for 150 yards or more only once in five games. ... The Jets
have scored only 12 points against Pittsburgh the last two seasons,
all on field goals. The Jets won 6-0 last season in a snowstorm in