4:46: I'll be in and out of the game (and the diary) for the next 15 minutes; this burger is taking longer to defrost than I'd hoped.
4:53: Fourth down Steelers at the 35 of Denver. Punt, 52-yard field goal or go for it? Cowher decides to take a delay of game and punt, trying to pin the Broncos close to their own end zone. I'd have kicked the field goal with the thin air and Reed having hit a 47-yarder already. But it's a "beauty," Nantz says, and Denver will start from its own 3.
4:59: Three and out, as Denver goes backwards to its half-yard line before punting to MY MAN RANDLE EL. This post was light on capital letters so far -- sue me.
5:02: Turning point? Hines Ward seems to pull in a pass on third down but Champ Bailey unloads on him, and Pittsburgh will have to punt again. If Denver doesn't get any points on this upcoming drive, they will lose. There are six minutes left in the third quarter, so they'd need to get a point a minute, unanswered.
5:04: So much for the "turning point"; these Pittsburgh cats just have more energy. The returner lets the punt bounce behind him at the 5, and it's flying toward the end zone when a Steeler special-teamer grabs the ball and flings it back over his left shoulder before he and it get to the end zone. Denver will start at its own 3. Again.
5:06: So much for "so much for the turning point". Shanahan challenges, and it looks like our man had his toe on the goal line. Officials make it a touchback; Denver gets the ball on its 20.
5:10: A wide-open Denver receiver drops a pass that'd be the team's first first down in 20 minutes of game time. Somebody named Alexander. That hurts, to drop a pass when your name finally gets called and some punk only knows the Alexander part of it. Plus you're losing by 21.
5:11: Okay, I could root for Denver if Rod Smith made more grabs like this one. Leaping catch over Troy Polamalu, as Simms eviscerates Plummer for passing up a shorter but surer first down. I think Simms is mad that his last assignment of the year has become a blowout.
5:15: On 2nd & 1 at the Pittsburgh 30, Plummer takes a shot downfield (why not) and Ashley Lelie yanks in a touchdown pass. 24-10 Pittsburgh, and holllllld everything! Let's see if Pittsburgh can eat up another six minutes of game time, then get a field goal to make it three scores. If they can't, we might have a game back on our hands.
5:19: The Bus blows up John Lynch on a block and Ben flings it 20 or 30 yards to a wide open Cedrick Wilson. Armen Keteyian reports that John Lynch is limping, but Bonnie says Bettis has a cold. Touche'.
5:21: Cedrick Wilson gets 15 yards on 2nd & 17; maybe Ward's being overcovered, because Wilson is catching everything.
5:22: The Steelers are at the Denver 25 as the third quarter runs out, so safe to assume we'll see at least a field goal try.
5:26: Ben gets sacked at the 25 on the third down, and here comes Reed ... dead center. 27-10, Pittsburgh.
5:27: Hurray! A Budweiser commercial I haven't seen. Two teams of football-playing horses wait pensively as a zebra reviews a play under the hood. Two cowboys watch: "This referee's a jackass." -- "No, I believe that's a zebra." -- "You're right. Why can't I quit you, Heath Ledger?"
5:30: Just as I was thinking how long it had been since I'd seen a big return this postseason, Charlie Adams brings the kickoff back to the Pittsburgh 42. But on the first play, Plummer throws it right to the Steelers' Larry Foote for his second interception. I just saw two Denver fans eat each other. I'll tell you, you can debate how much credit to give Whisenhunt versus how much credit to give Roethlisberger, but there's no question where to put the blame on the Denver side. Plummer was not pressured at all on either interception, and each one was an easy play for the defender.
5:33: Finally, a three-and-out by Pittsburgh. Plummer will start at his own 15 this time. Maybe he'll like that better. I don't think Shanahan can yank him in this game if he wants to start him ever again, but I'm sure he's tempted. Really, Frank Reich, stay by the phone.
5:37: Plummer dodges a sack twice, then finally shovels to Anderson but gets penalized for having an ineligible man downfield. Then Cecil Sapp drops a pass after a modest hit. The Broncos can't get out of their own way.
5:40: Lelie wrenches his body around on the deep route, Plummer throws it a little short, and Lelie makes the catch for a big gain. Then Plummer dodges another sack, wings an incompletion to a receiver at the 10 but the Steelers are penalized for pass interference AND having a guy remove his helmet afterward! Suddenly Denver's close to cutting the lead to 10 with 9 minutes left. That'd be manageable.
5:43: The Steelers get called for a face mask now; they're sort of coming apart here. They expected the game to be over already. First and goal at the 5.
5:44: ANOTHER flag. False start on Denver. Jitters all around.
5:45: Plummer runs Sprint Right Options and keeps it, to the 4. Good decision. Next play, Mike Anderson punches it in for the second touchdown. 27-17, Pittsburgh, with 7:57 left. So much for the blowout; Denver has its swagger back and Pittsburgh, despite its coach's warnings, is playing to run out the clock, not to score more points. This could turn into a disaster if Ben goes three and out again.
5:48: Sauerbrun kicks it out of bounds for Denver. Plummer is on an oxygen machine on the sideline.
5:52: And there's a three and out by the Steelers. Put down the air, Jake the Snake, and go make this a 3-point game.
5:54: The Broncos are moving a little slowly, a la the Eagles in the Super Bowl last year. I know how this movie ends.
5:55: Plummer sacked on third down when the Steelers bring the house. Broncos going for it on 4th and 10, and if they don't get it, they're screwed.
5:56: They don't get it. They're screwed. The Steelers' pressure finally tired out Denver's O-line.
6:01: Roethlisberger scrambles from the 6 for a touchdown. Except for a few hiccups in the second half, this was a dominating game by Pittsburgh. Fun to watch, not like some routs. 34-17, Pittsburgh.
6:02: Hugs on the Pittsburgh sideline, and it looks like cursing on the Denver sideline.
6:07: Well, I'll wrap this up. Two minutes left, but the football on the field is meaningless. Good for Jerome Bettis, finally getting to a Super Bowl. And good for me, considering changing out of my pajamas. Yea right.