Published January 23, 2011
PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers fans furiously twirled their Terrible Towels in the chilly Heinz Field stands to create a blurry sea of black and yellow after their team beat the New York Jets to win the AFC title.
Pittsburgh's going back to the Super Bowl for the third time in six years.
The Steelers are bound for Dallas after defeating the Jets 24-19 on Sunday night. They'll face the Green Bay Packers, who beat the Chicago Bears to take the NFC crown.
"We (have) got the greatest fans in the world, we really do," coach Mike Tomlin said. "Steeler nation, you deserve this."
More than 66,000 of the Pittsburgh faithful showed up in below-freezing temperatures and partied at halftime with their team up 24-3. The freezing crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Steelers held on after struggling in the second half.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger raised an arm in the air as time expired before the on-field celebration began for the six-time Super Bowl champions.
Now No. 7 wants title No. 7.
Defensive tackle Brett Keisel, a fan favorite in part because of his Grizzly Adams-like beard, soaked up the scene away from most of his teammates to get a better view of the trophy presentation.
Across the city, residents rejoiced and chanted, "We want seven!"
In the city's South Side district, home of a bevy of bars and restaurants, more fans danced on sidewalks, bundled up in black or yellow parkas, coats and knit hats while officers in patrol cars with strobe lights flashing drove past trying to keep them off the streets.
The scene was more subdued in New York City as passionate Jets fans at McGarry's, a midtown Manhattan bar, debated the future of their favorite team.
"I wish it would have turned out different," said Jimmy Ford, 24, a Jets fans since he was 5. "They had a good show in the second half, came out fired up. Had they played like that, the game would have been ours."
But Ford, who said he was looking forward to next year, refused to call them the "same old Jets."
"If they were the same old Jets, they would have came out and laid down in the second half," Ford said. "They stayed in it. They fought. They came back."
At the other end of the bar, 23-year-old Joe Brady of Manhattan, a Jets fan for eight years, was not so optimistic.
"I don't think they can get over the hump," said Brady, an operations manager for an organic produce company. "I just don't think they're a Super Bowl-caliber team."
Associated Press writer Tom McElroy in New York and AP freelance writer Chris Adamski contributed to this report.