"Now that's how I like to see football played, particularly that last drive," Jerome Bettis said on his way to the elevator. "You have to be able to close out a game. You have to be able to run the ball when they know you're going to run the ball."
And that old-school mentality secured a 27-10 win over the Jets. With a 20-10 lead, the Steelers took over at their 25 with 13:47 left. They ran 8 times for 31 yards, and passes to Heath Miller and Isaac Redman accounted for another 31 yards, as the Steelers bludgeoned the Jets into submitting to one final Steelers touchdown on a 2-yard run by Redman.
"In the huddle Ben (Roethlisberger) was telling us it was time to suck it up," said Redman. "He looked at everybody and said, ‘We'll see what we're made of right now. We're going to run it down their throat.' He told the o-line, ‘Get on your blocks and get some push,' and the o-line got great push in that whole last drive and they were opening up holes."
The Steelers rushed for only 66 yards in the game, and at a dreadful 2.4 per-carry clip, but they ran when they needed it most.
"We felt them wearing down," Redman said. "If you keep them out there that long, they're bound to wear down. We just wanted to keep pounding on them and finish them off."
It was Bill Cowher football. It was attrition football. It was Jerome Bettis football. And it appears to be back because this coaching staff didn't quit on the running game in spite of the early results.
"Without a doubt," said left guard Willie Colon. "Cowher gave the o-line time to warm up. What happened today, in the beginning of the game, they were set up front and at the last minute they would stem, so we would have to change our mechanics on the run. But (offensive coordinator Todd) Haley did a good job of staying with us and toward the end of the game we said, ‘OK, we know where they're going, and we started running.'"
The Jets entered the game last in the league against the run, but without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis it seemed logical for the Steelers to attack the Jets' depleted cornerback depth with their deep receiving corps.
But that was far from the plan. The Steelers threw mainly out of running formations and Roethlisberger was razor sharp in completing 24 of 31 passes with a 125.1 passer rating.
"We thought we could run and we thought we could pass," said Redman. "Knowing that Revis was out we thought we could get on the edge a little bit with some sweeps. That really wasn't working too well so we switched up the game plan at halftime to go straight downhill at them."
"Yeah, they have some smaller corners," said left tackle Max Starks. "But Eric Smith was back at safety and LaRon Landry was coming in as their nickel sam, so they still had big guys even though Revis was out. We knew we could attack the middle, because they're a lazy spill team, as far as their technique, as far as how they did their two-gap pressuring. So we thought we had an advantage inside to free it up for the play-action game to go up top."
Of course, the statistics say it wasn't all successful. The Steelers weren't taking bows for the numbers, just the tough win.
"We weren't very clean at all today," said Colon. "But with Haley here now, he's sticking with us a little more. At the end of the game, as we warmed up, we started to pick it up. We knew where to go. That was the only good thing about it."