Steelers defeat Lions to advance to NFL playoffs

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Monday, January 2, 2006

The Pittsbugh Steelers defeated the Detroit Lions 35-21 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The victory earns the Steelers the final spot for an AFC team in the NFL playoffs.

The Steelers, who had a 10-5 record heading into the game, were strong favorites against the Lions, who were 5-10. Pittsburgh took an early lead on an 81 yard Antwaan Randle El punt return less than two minutes into the game. However, the Lions fought back, with quarterback Joey Harrington throwing scoring passes on two consecutive drives in the first quarter to put Detroit up 14-7.

Veteran Steelers running back Jerome Bettis scored the next three touchdowns, matching a career high. His third touchdown resulted in a standing ovation from the crowd of 63,794. This will likely be the last home game for Bettis, as he is expected to retire at the end of this season.

The Steelers (11-5) go on to play the Bengals (11-5) in Cincinnati next Sunday at 4:00pm in the wildcard round. The Steelers split their season series with the Bengals winning 27-13 on October 23 in Cincinnati, but losing 38-31 at home on December 4.

"We play [the Bengals] twice a year and we know them," said Steelers receiver Hines Ward. "It's not going to be easy, but we're more comfortable with them."

The other AFC wildcard game has the Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4) visiting the New England Patroits (10-6). The winners of the wild card round will face the Indianapolis Colts (14-2) or the Denver Broncos (13-3) in the divisonal round.

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