( AP )- Never in the Steelers' 75 seasons had a team beaten them twice in Pittsburgh in the same season. The Jaguars beat history - and the Steelers - despite a memorable fourth-quarter collapse that nearly cost Jacksonville its season.
Josh Scobee saved the game by kicking a 25-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining and the Jaguars came back after squandering an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter to beat the Steelers 31-29 on Saturday night in an AFC wild-card game that was wild in every sense of the word.
Jacksonville appeared to be done after Najeh Davenport's second 1-yard TD run of the game gave the Steelers a 29-28 lead with about six minutes remaining. But quarterback David Garrard, not a great runner, found a seam on a convert-or-else fourth-and-2 play and rambled 32 yards to the Steelers 11 with 1:56 left.
"Right before we went out, I pulled the guys together and said, `Guys, you got to love it, this is what we're here for,'" coach Jack Del Rio said. "Now let's go out and make some plays and win it."
Garrard aided the Steelers' comeback by throwing two interceptions - one less than he had all season - only to come up with the play that may have saved the Jaguars' season.
"They kind of lost their gaps, they thought pass, I was able to get through there," Garrard said. "I just wanted to get a first down. I did enough to get into field-goal range and that was all I was thinking about."
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (29-of-42, 337 yards) put the Steelers into a deep hole by throwing three interceptions before halftime, then got rolling after he began lining up in a shotgun formation and threw touchdown passes to Santonio Holmes (37 yards) and Heath Miller (14 yards) in 4 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter to get Pittsburgh within 28-23.
The Steelers rallied from 15 points down to tie Jacksonville late in the Jaguars' 29-22 win at Heinz Field on Dec. 16 but couldn't close the deal. They couldn't this time, either, even though Roethlisberger , shouldering the Steelers' offense virtually by himself with no running game, was 17-of-23 for 263 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
The Jaguars have beaten Pittsburgh four times in the last three seasons, including their 29-22 win on Dec. 16, and they appeared ready to do easily by building a 28-10 lead behind backup running back Maurice Jones- Drew's playmaking.
Jones-Drew, escaping Jaguars star Fred Taylor's shadow in a performance filled with big plays, scored on a 43-yard swing pass after one of Roethlisberger's interceptions and a 10-yard run that provided the 18-point lead. Jones- Drew's 96-yard kickoff return the first time Jacksonville touched the ball set up Taylor's 1-yard touchdown run and immediately answer the Steelers' opening-possession 80-yard touchdown drive.
"It was a tough way to get a win and we got one," Jones-Drew said. "It kind of got a little hectic when we were losing, but David made that big run at the end."
The Jaguars came in off six wins in their last eight games, while the Steelers - missing five starters, including star running back Willie Parker - limped into the postseason with three losses in four games and four in seven.
With no Parker, the NFL's leading rusher until he broke his right leg Dec. 20 against St. Louis, the Steelers needed to be creative offensively and Roethlisberger was exactly that on the opening possession. Using rollouts and swing passes to gain the yardage they normally get on Parker's running, the Steelers drove 80 yards for Davenport's 1-yard TD run and a 7-0 lead.
Roethlisberger was 5-of-6 for 59 yards, including a 31-yard catch by Hines Ward on third-and-4, and a 15-yard penalty for a horse collar tackle by John Henderson on a sack of Roethlisberger also helped.
That efficient, creative Steelers offense disappeared the rest of the half, replaced by the familiar mistake-a-minute style so common when they ended five seasons with home playoff losses under former coach Bill Cowher from 1992-2004.
Jacksonville wasn't rattled by the early score in a stadium where it won in its last two visits. Jones-Drew cut back twice during a 96-yard return of the ensuing kickoff, helped by a missed tackle by Bryant McFadden, and Taylor scored from the 1 on the next play - his second TD in a span of two minutes at Heinz Field. Taylor decided that 29-22 game on Dec. 16 with a 12-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
So much for early momentum by the Steelers, who were playing their first home playoff game since a 41-27 loss to New England in the AFC championship game in January 2005.
Mathis, who decided Jacksonville's 23-17 overtime win at Heinz Field in 2005 with an interception return touchdown in overtime, jumped on a slant pattern by Holmes early in the second quarter for his 63-yard interception return. Two plays before, the Steelers appeared to get a big break when a tipped pass intended for Miller deflected to Ward for a 33-yard gain, a mini-Immaculate Reception 35 years and two weeks after the original.
Roethlisberger , perhaps attempting to prove he wasn't discouraged by that interception, went right back at Mathis on Pittsburgh's next possession - and was intercepted by him again. The Jaguars promptly scored two plays later, on a 43-yard swing pass to Jones-Drew that made it 21-7.
With the Steelers driving late in the half, after Scobee's missed 46-yard field goal attempt, Roethlisberger was intercepted yet again by rookie backup lineman Derek Landri .