| By Myra Bean
The Pittsburgh Steelers advanced to the AFC National Championship game set for Sunday in Denver to face the Broncos after upsetting the Indianapolis Colts 21-18 Sunday.
The Colts, headed by quarterback Peyton Manning, looked stunned as the game progressed when they could not do anything against a pumped up Steeler team.
The Steelers had lost to the Colts 26-7 Monday night, November 28. This was a totally different Steeler team with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger at the quarterback helm.
He completed five of six passes, one for a six yard touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle El, in the Steelers’ first possession of the game.
With 3:12 left in the first quarter, Roethlisberger connected with Heath Miller for a seven-yard touchdown pass to go up 14-0 going into the second quarter.
The Colts had to settle for a field goal right before the half to get points on the board.
It took a while for the Colts to find their footing in the second half – they were down 21-3 going into the fourth quarter – to secure a couple of touchdowns and a two-point conversion to pull within three points of the Steelers.
The Colts were facing a fourth down and two and Manning waved the punt team off the field and went for the first down. He got it which eventually led to a three-yard Edgerrin James touchdown run. The Colts tried for the two-point conversion and it was successful to bring the game within three points.
With 1:17 left in the game, after the Steelers had stopped the Colts with a sack of Manning at the two-yard line, Jerome "The Bus" Bettis fumbled the ball.
A Colt picked it up and started to run it back but was stopped by the only Steeler who was in position to stop him, Roethlisberger.
The Steelers thought the game was basically over until that fumble and run back and the Colts and their crowd felt a new surge of energy.
The Steelers’ defense did not roll over and give the Colts anything in this last minute of the game.
The Colts could not get any further than the 29 yard line and placekicker Mike Vanderjagt had to try for a 46-yard field goal to tie the game with 21 seconds left on the clock.
The kick was not even close and Bettis felt the weight of a possible loss lifted from his shoulders.
Indianapolis started the season 13-0 but the win streak ended with back to back losses to San Diego and then Seattle. The Colts ended the regular season 14-2.
The Steelers became the first sixth-seeded team to advance to a conference title game, according to notes.
Former South Panola quarterback and standout Deshea Townsend had two tackles in the Steeler win Sunday afternoon.
For the season Townsend has 50 tackles, 11 assists, three sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
The Steelers and the Broncos will play Sunday at 2 p.m. central time in Denver for the AFC Championship.
The winner will meet the NFC Champion from the Carolina/Seattle game which will be played Sunday at 5:30 p.m. in Seattle in Superbowl XL (40) February 5.
The Pittsburgh/Denver game will be televised on CBS and the Carolina/Seattle game will be televised on FOX.
Superbowl 40 will be played on Ford Field in Detroit, Mich. at 5 p.m. central.
ABC will carry the game.