The Steelers couldn't have designed a more Pittsburgh-perfect day for an important December home game. They whipped up everything a warm-weather opponent wouldn't want: snow, swirling winds, chilly temperatures and a messy field.
Somehow, the weatherproof Jacksonville Jaguars shrugged off the bad weather and the Steelers, too, in a stadium where no opponent had won in a year.
Fred Taylor scored a decisive touchdown on a 12-yard run in the final 2 minutes while gaining 147 yards, and the Jaguars (10-4) withstood Pittsburgh's fourth-quarter comeback for a 29-22 victory yesterday that put them on the verge of making the AFC playoffs.
"The outsiders didn't believe we could come in here with the elements on the road, in a hostile territory against a team like Pittsburgh, and win the game," said Taylor (147 yards, 25 carries). "We were the only ones that believed."
The Steelers (9-5), previously 7-0 at home, fell into a tie with the Browns (9-5) for the AFC North lead after Cleveland beat Buffalo 8-0. Pittsburgh, which could have clinched the division, owns the tiebreaker going into its final two games: Thursday at St. Louis and Dec. 30 at Baltimore.
"The Jaguars are the Pittsburgh of the South," said an admiring Willie Parker (100 yards, 14 carries). "The weather was kind of bad, and they came in like they've been playing in it for a while. We've got to use our weather to our advantage."
The Steelers were down 22-7 after David Garrard threw three touchdown passes and looked beaten after getting nothing going offensively in the second half, only to tie it by scoring twice in 7 1/2 minutes with the help of two missed extra points by Jacksonville.
"Great comeback, a lot of heart, but a loss is a loss," said Ben Roethlisberger (16-for-33, 146 yards), who shook off a sore shoulder and five sacks to throw three scoring passes.
Anthony Smith's 50-yard return of only the second interception thrown by Garrard in 307 attempts this season led to Roethlisberger's 11-yard TD pass to Hines Ward. On Pittsburgh's next possession, Roethlisberger threw a team-record 29th touchdown pass, a 30-yarder to Nate Washington. Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson's two-point conversion pass to Santonio Holmes on a gadget play tied it at 22 with less than 6 minutes remaining.
Instead of folding, Jacksonville came back with a 73-yard, eight-play drive ended by Taylor's scoring run during his fourth consecutive 100-yard game.
In other games:
* BUCCANEERS 37, FALCONS 3: At Tampa, Micheal Spurlock ran back a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, the first in the franchise's 32 seasons, and the Buccaneers won the NFC South for the second time in three seasons. Ronde Barber returned an interception 29 yards for a score to help Tampa Bay (9-5) improve to 5-0 in the division after going 0-6 against NFC South rivals a year ago. The loss was the fifth in a row for Atlanta (3-11).
* REDSKINS 22, GIANTS 10: At East Rutherford, N.J., Clinton Portis scored on a 5-yard run on Washington's opening possession of the second half, helping the Redskins (7-7) beat the New York Giants (9-5). Giants Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey broke his left leg in the third quarter.
* CHARGERS 51, LIONS 14: At San Diego, the Chargers (9-5) repeated as AFC West champions by beating punchless Detroit (6-8) for their fourth straight win and eighth in 10 games. LaDainian Tomlinson had 116 yards and two scores on 15 carries Backup Darren Sproles to run for 122 yards and two TDs. It was the first time in Chargers history two backs rushed for more than 100 yards in the same game.
* COLTS 21, RAIDERS 14: At Oakland, Peyton Manning (22-for-39, 276 yards) threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to rookie Anthony Gonzalez with 4:49 remaining and Indianapolis (12-2), who clinched a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, beat the Raiders (4-10).
* PACKERS 33, RAMS 14: At St. Louis, Brett Favre (19-for-30, 227 yards) threw for two touchdowns, eclipsing Dan Marino to become the NFL career leader in yards passing as Green Bay (12-2) beat the Rams (3-11). He entered the day needing 184 yards to pass Marino. The Packers secured a first-round playoff bye for the first time since 1997.
* BROWNS 8, BILLS 0: At Cleveland, Jamal Lewis plowed for 163 yards on 33 carries and Phil Dawson somehow kicked two field goals through harsh, wintry winds as the surprising Browns (9-5) beat Buffalo (7-7). The Browns would clinch their first playoff appearance since 2002 with a win at Cincinnati next week.
* PANTHERS 13, SEAHAWKS 10: At Charlotte, rookie Matt Moore (19-for-27, 208 yards) , the fourth starting quarterback for Carolina this season, engineered three scoring drives in the fourth quarter as the Panthers (6-8) held off Seattle. The NFC West champion Seahawks (9-5) had their five-game winning streak snapped.
* TITANS 26, CHIEFS 17: At Kansas City, Vince Young (16-for-26, 191 yards) passed for two touchdowns and Rob Bironas kicked four field goals for a much-needed victory that kept Tennessee (8-6) alive in the AFC wild-card chase. The Chiefs (4-10) lost their seventh in a row and closed out their most miserable home season in 30 years, going 2-6. *