- Associated Press - Sunday, January 23, 2011

PITTSBURGH | Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers found a fitting way to shut down the New York Jets‘ season.

What started with “Hard Knocks,” ended with hard knocks.

For the third time in six seasons, Terrible Towels will twirl at the Super Bowl, where the Steelers will meet Green Bay after silencing Rex Ryan’s wild bunch in a 24-19 victory for the AFC championship Sunday.

Look out Big D, here comes another Big D — in black and gold, and with an unmatched history of carrying off the Lombardi Trophy.

The Steelers (14-4) also will challenge the Packers, who are 2½-point favorites, with a versatile attack led by their quarterback and running back Rashard Mendenhall.

The defense, led by James Harrison, had a fumble return for a touchdown and a goal-line stand that shut down the Jets‘ comeback in the fourth quarter. It will certainly test Aaron Rodgers in the title game in Dallas on Feb. 6.

That smothering defense set the tone for most of a frigid night at Heinz Field to end the Jets‘ stunning postseason run. Ryan slammed down his headset when Antonio Brown caught a pass for a first down that allowed Pittsburgh to hang on and run out the clock.

“It’s not always pretty with us,” Roethlisberger said, “but we do the job.”

The Steelers ended the Jets‘ season with a dominant first half for a 24-3 lead. Mendenhall had 95 of his 121 yards and a touchdown.

“We played a good half. We never played a good game, and that was the difference,” Ryan said in a postgame interview with CBS. “You get to this point, you’ve got to play a great game against a great opponent and we played a good half and that was it.”

At game’s end, Roethlisberger knelt on the field, his face buried in an AFC championship T-shirt.

“I’m going to enjoy this,” he said.

No one had to ask what he meant.

Roethlisberger sat out the season’s first four games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy — an outgrowth of a college student’s accusations that he sexually assaulted her in Georgia last March. The quarterback was never prosecuted over what was the second such set of allegations against him.

“God is good and this one was for Steelers fans,” Roethlisberger said. “I’m really proud of the way you came out and supported us tonight.”

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