PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers know better than to make vacation plans for the latter part of January -- because they fully expect to be playing football through the end of the month.
Soon thereafter, the Steelers and a delirious crowd at Heinz Field began gearing up for their fourth appearance in the AFC title game in the past seven years.
"That's great. To be down like that and come out at halftime, I know a lot of people probably were counting us out," linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. "We came back, and we fought. That shows what kind of team we are. When the offense is down, the defense is going to pick them up. And when the defense is down, the offense is going to pick up. That's the thing about being teammates."
For the first 30 minutes, both units could share the blame for the 14-point deficit. Pittsburgh's defense gave up a 68-yard drive and permitted two third-down conversions during another touchdown march. The offense committed two turnovers, including a fumble by Roethlisberger that Baltimore defensive end Cory Redding turned into a score.
"It wasn't our best day today," said Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, who scored a touchdown. "But anytime we have Ben on the field, he is a winner. He may not be (Tom) Brady or all the other guys, but you can't knock the guy for what he has done. History shows he is a proven winner against Baltimore. He is a proven winner in the playoffs."
On Saturday night, Roethlisberger didn't care to think about a rematch.
"You like to play teams that you lose to. Right now, that is not on my mind," he said. "I'm going to enjoy this win and see what happens."
Roethlisberger knows all about playing in the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl, but there are others on this team preparing for their first such foray this deep into the postseason.
"He said what guys like James Farrior and Troy Polamalu would do. But the difference was going to be what those young guys do," Clark added. "You look at the contributions made by Ziggy (four tackles and a sack), the big catch made by Antonio. Those guys really came through for us, and, at this time, that's what you need. We know that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are going to do their thing for Baltimore. But what are their young guys going to do? I believe we won that battle."
"It starts with the top. It starts with the Rooneys -- awesome people, awesome family, awesome owners," Roethlisberger said. "I think all the players really respect the coaches, from the head guy all the way down to our position guy. We are a family, we have since I've been here, and we'll fight and do anything for each other."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press