In either case, the NFL won't need to go to replay or its rulebook to make the call. Even if every Steelers game seems to be ending this way as the season winds down.
"I know we've been in a bunch of these (tight) games and we found a way to see our way out of some of them," coach Mike Tomlin said.
Unlike the taken-away Polamalu touchdown, the NFL backed its officials Monday and decided they made the right call.
"(NFL officiating chief) Mike Pereira supports the call," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday in an e-mail. "He sees the same thing Walt Coleman sees."
Not that it was certain the Steelers would have scored on fourth-and-inches, given how Mewelde Moore (twice) and Gary Russell (once) recently were stopped on fourth-and-1 gambles.
An interesting twist: The Titans might have had a two-game conference lead with two games to play if they had chosen to kick a winning 49-yard field goal as time wound down Sunday in Houston. Instead, coach Jeff Fisher decided the kick was out of Rob Bironas' range and they went for it on fourth-and-3. Kerry Collins overthrew Justin McCareins and Tennessee lost 13-12.
"There were several reasons and instances where the faint of heart would have let go of the rope," Tomlin said. "They (the Steelers) didn't. ... Tennessee is next, so we'll prepare for that. We'll go play that one. Not thinking about things too deeply, truth be known. When you're running the gauntlet that we've had to run from a schedule standpoint, looking at it any other way is not helpful."
Should the Steelers win at Tennessee and wind up being top-seeded, they can only hope they defend that homefield advantage better than they have in the past.
When Bill Cowher was coach, the Steelers repeatedly squandered that edge, losing AFC Championship Games in Pittsburgh during the 1994 (Chargers), 1997 (Broncos), 2001 (Patriots) and 2004 (Patriots) seasons. They also lost to Buffalo in a divisional-round game during the 1992 season when they also could have stayed at home throughout the playoffs.
The last six times they owned homefield advantage throughout the conference playoffs, they reached the Super Bowl only once.
"We would love to have that No. 1 spot, and try to get the easiest path there," Hines Ward said. "But in the AFC, I don't think there is any easy way."
Maybe that's one reason why the Steelers briefly put on AFC North championship hats on Sunday night, but quickly put them away.
"You won't see any of us wearing this hat Tuesday, because it's time to bear down and finish this thing off," Roethlisberger said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press