PITTSBURGH - The New York Jets weren't supposed to be able to win this game in this city, not with this quarterback.
Somehow they did, and the playoffs are looking like a great possibility because of it.
Mark Sanchez stood up to the pressure created by the Steelers' defense and his team's two-game losing streak, scrambling for the Jets' first offensive touchdown in 12 quarters and leading a decisive field-goal drive as New York beat Pittsburgh, 22-17, yesterday.
Despite losing, the Steelers (10-4) were told by the NFL nearly an hour after the game ended that they secured a playoff spot via a series of complicated strength-of-schedule tiebreakers.
Pittsburgh also owns the division tiebreaker and will beat out Baltimore (10-4) for the AFC North title if it defeats Carolina on Thursday and Cleveland on Jan. 2.
The Jets (10-4) held on to win even as Ben Roethlisberger drove the Steelers from their 8 to New York's 10 in the final 2:08, only to throw incomplete on the game's final two plays.
Roethlisberger repeatedly kept the drive going, finding rookie Emmanuel Sanders for 29 yards on third-and-24, Mike Wallace for 18 on third-and-10 and Antonio Brown for 16 on third-and-10. The Steelers had to go for a touchdown rather than settling for a field goal because Mewelde Moore was tackled in the end zone for a safety with 2:38 remaining.
The Jets won in Pittsburgh for the first time after going 0-7 there since the 1970 merger. Only two NFL teams have longer winless streaks in an opposing city during that span.
Sanchez fooled the NFL's best run defense by faking a handoff before racing into the end zone untouched on a tying 7-yard TD run in the third quarter. Before that, Pittsburgh had taken its first lead at 17-10 on Rashard Mendenhall's 2-yard run.
The Jets ran for 106 yards against a defense that came in allowing only 60 yards per game.
The Steelers, winners of their previous four, shook off Brad Smith's 97-yard kickoff return on the game's opening play to take that lead but, playing without injured defensive star Troy Polamalu, fell back into a tie for the AFC North lead with Baltimore.
Sanchez, rallying the Jets from demoralizing losses to the Patriots (45-3) and Dolphins (10-6) that raised speculation they might be headed to a 2008-like playoff collapse, followed his TD run by hitting Braylon Edwards for 16 yards on a key third-and-9 play. That completion led to Nick Folk's go-ahead 34-yard field goal on a snow-splattered turf with 10:07 remaining. Folk hit earlier from 25 yards.
Sanchez went 19-for-29 for 170 yards, with Edwards making eight catches for 100 yards, as New York won in one of the NFL's most difficult road venues in December despite being outgained, 378-276. Sanchez was sacked only once, and didn't throw an interception for the first time in nine games.