- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2002

PITTSBURGH When it was announced just before yesterday's AFC Divisional playoff game that Pittsburgh running back Jerome Bettis had suffered an adverse reaction to a painkiller he took for his groin injury, the Steelers could have flinched. After all, Bettis has been their offensive focal point for six years.
But the Steelers knew they didn't need to worry about "the Bus" remaining in the shop for another week even though super-quick Amos Zereoue had never started a game in his three-year career. By the time the game was 22 minutes old, Zereoue had scored two touchdowns and outrushed the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens by a 3-to-1 margin. And the Steelers were well on their way to a 27-10 victory and a berth in Sunday's AFC Championship game here against the upstart New England Patriots.
"Usually Jerome's in the front when we're warming up, but when I looked over, I didn't see him," said Zereoue, who ran for a game-high 63 yards, albeit on 24 carries, as many as he had in his first two seasons combined. "I thought it was an equipment problem, but then coach [Bill Cowher] told me Jerome wouldn't be able to go and for me to be ready. I had been successful against them before [with 73 yards on 16 carries in a 26-21 victory in Baltimore on Dec. 16], and I felt I could do the same thing."
Zereoue took a pitch 12 yards for a first down on Pittsburgh's opening play, and he and the Steelers were off and running. His pair of 1-yard touchdowns showed the versatility of the 5-foot-8, 210-pound native of the Ivory Coast via Hempstead, N.Y., and the University of West Virginia. On the first score, which made it 10-0 with 3:49 left in the first quarter, Zereoue ran through linebacker Ray Lewis. On the second one, which made it 17-0 with 5:43 to go in the first half, Zereoue leapt over the line and into the end zone.
"A lot of people look at me and wonder, 'How is this guy in the NFL?'" said Zereoue, who missed most of Pittsburgh's last two regular-season games with a bad shoulder. "But it has been that way since I've been playing football. I'm always having to prove myself. The first play set the tone. After that, I knew I would be on. I knew we could run the ball."
The Steelers churned out 154 yards on the ground against the vaunted Ravens run defense, a huge factor in Pittsburgh holding better than a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession.
"I reminded the team [before the game] that we had beaten this team when we didn't have Jerome," said Cowher, whose team averaged an impressive 170 rushing yards in going 4-1 down the stretch with Bettis sidelined with hip and groin injuries. "He carried us early in the year when we were trying to figure out how to throw the football, but this team has never been about one individual. Amos was fresh. We came into the game with the idea of using him. We just used him a little bit more than we had planned."
Steelers receiver Hines Ward said Zereoue's great cutback ability was the right weapon with which to attack a Ravens defense that pursues the ball so voraciously.
"They overflow, which leaves holes in the defense, and we exploited that," Ward said. "This wasn't a surprise. Amos and [power back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala] did it all year when Jerome wasn't able to play. We've won without Jerome."
And since Bettis was apparently all but recovered after the game, the Steelers won't have to try to repeat yesterday's performance on Sunday against the Patriots to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in six years.

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