PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Steelers did two important things Sunday night with their 24-19 victory:
n They earned a trip to the Super Bowl.
n They shut up Rex Ryan.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Flozell Adams and Mike Wallace celebrate during the final moments of Sunday’s win at Heinz Field.
On a rational level, you know that the first is greater than the second, but they both seem to be pretty satisfying on an emotional level.
It's Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay for the first time ever in 45 years of Super Bowl Roman numerals.
The Packers earned their trip by beating the Chicago Bears Sunday afternoon, rising from the No. 6 seed to get to the Super Bowl.
There's no time to check the record books right now, but it's hard to imagine there's even been a Super Bowl match-up between towns that take their football as seriously as Green Bay, Wisc. and Pittsburgh, Pa. do.
The team of the 1970s will take on the team of the 1960s for the championship of 2011.
In the process, the Steelers vanquished the Jets, an impressive upstart team led by the outspoken Ryan.
The idea of him mixing some humble pie into his super-sized meal schedule is sure to bring a smile to any black-and-gold painted face.
You can look at this a couple of ways: You can be impressed by the Steelers' quick 24-0 lead in the first half, or you can be distressed by their failure to add to that margin while allowing 19 points in the second half.
Make no mistake, this was as hairy as Brett Kiesel's beard at the end, until Ben Roethlisberger hit rookie Antonio Brown with a pass that resulted in the final first down that sunk the Jets.
Everyone's favorite play is the kneel down that kills the clock at the end.
The Steelers were dominant coming out of the tunnel, even though Roethlisberger didn't have much of a night.
Rashard Mendenhall was running like a madman, spinning off some tackles, bulling his way through others, and seemingly adding to every gain with his second effort.
Despite their playoff experience (they lost the Championship game last year, too), the Jets seemed to have a case of what golfers refer to as "the yips," while the Steelers' energy level suggested something seriously caffeinated was loaded into the water containers.
Defensive players were flying to the ball. When contemplating what to call, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer may have been tempted to select 9-1-1.
The patchwork offensive line was opening holes for the running backs, although it seemed to have problems with pass protection.
Roethlisberger, who spent much of the week battling the flu, was sporadically effective. His passer rating was 35.5, which is a dismal number.
Part of that stat was influenced by two interceptions, breaking a streak of 198 passes without a turnover.
Roethlisberger was at his best when he was on the move, scrambling the way he did in his early years.
It also seemed to be a fairly quiet game for safety Troy Polamalu. Could be that the Jets had the answers to keep him from making big plays, or it could be that the lingering effects of an Achilles injury are preventing Polamalu from dominating the way he often does.
The Jets also seemed to have a good plan for neutralizing the Steelers' various blitzes. Mark Sanchez is just a second-year pro, but the Jets had schemes that protected him from the multi-faceted attack that has confused lesser quarterbacks.
It hurt everyone when rookie center Maurkice Pouncey sustained a first-half ankle sprain that knocked him out of the game.
Replacement Doug Legursky, who has done an admirable job in a utility role, was forced into the game at center, and he's no Pouncey.
A mishandled snap cost the Steelers two points and possession late in the game when Roethlisberger was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
It was an unwelcome bit of dj' vu from the Jets' regular season at Heinz Field on Dec. 19.
This time, though, the Steelers found a way to close it out.
They're headed to Dallas.
And Rex Ryan is going home.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org