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Bettis drives Steelers to playoffs
By wire services
Published January 2, 2006
PITTSBURGH - Jerome Bettis acted like a man ready to retire. He received two standing ovations, signed dozens of jerseys and footballs for his teammates and posed for pictures on the field for a half-hour after the game ended.
Bettis hopes the Steelers delay his anticipated retirement for four more games.
Bettis matched his career high with three touchdown runs - in likely his final game in Pittsburgh - and the Steelers overcame some sloppy defense to beat Detroit, securing their 10th playoff appearance in 14 seasons under coach Bill Cowher.
The Steelers will play at AFC North champion Cincinnati at 4:30 p.m. Sunday in a wild-card game. Pittsburgh won at Cincinnati 27-13 on Oct.23, but effectively lost the division title with a 38-31 loss to the Bengals in Pittsburgh on Dec.4.
"We play them twice a year and we know them," Hines Ward said. "We'll take our chances going to Cincinnati. ... It's not going to be easy, but we're more comfortable with them."
Pittsburgh avoided a playoff rematch with New England when the Patriots lost 28-26 to Miami. The Steelers lost AFC championship games at home to the Patriots last season and during the 2001 season.
"It didn't make any difference to me who we play," safety Troy Polamalu said. "We have unfinished business with both of them."
Bettis, the fifth-leading rusher in history, said last week he wanted to "do something special" if this was his final home game. He had only 41 yards - Willie Parker ran for 135 - but scored on runs of 1, 5 and 4 yards to help the Steelers overcome an early 14-7 deficit.
The Steelers' challenge is big. No sixth seed has made it to a conference championship game, much less the Super Bowl, since the league's present playoff format was adopted in 1990. The Steelers will have to beat the Bengals and Colts just to reach the AFC title game.
The Steelers allowed Joey Harrington to throw three touchdowns after giving up only one touchdown and 12 points in their previous three games.
NOTABLE: Parker, an undrafted rookie in 2004, finished with 1,202 yards rushing, the most by a Steeler since Bettis' 1,341-yard season in 2000. ... Detroit is 0-10 in Pittsburgh since 1955.