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Brown makes big splash for Steelers
Clutch catch helped set up winning TD against Ravens

PITTSBURGH -- The first time Antonio Brown officially touched the football as an NFL player, he took it 89 yards for a touchdown.

Knowing that, it shouldn't come as a surprise that he made arguably the biggest play in his first playoff game.

Brown burst onto the national scene Saturday with a timely and creative 58-yard reception on third and 19 that set up the Steelers' winning touchdown vs. the Ravens. He beat his defender with speed down the sideline, and hauled in a Ben Roethlisberger pass.

Then came the tricky part. He held on to it as veteran teammate Hines Ward said, between "the Steelers emblem [on his helmet] and his right hand."

Brown is not a familiar face -- in part because he wasn't even active for seven of Pittsburgh's first 11 games -- but he is quickly making a name for himself, as the Steelers (13-4) prepare for the New York Jets (13-5).

Of course, that's in national circles. To Brown's teammates, though, they never doubted him.

"I've always felt like that," wide receiver Mike Wallace said. "It's not like this just came after one catch that he made. Antonio's proved himself every day in practice, day in and day out. There's not a day that goes by that we don't believe we can't put him in a game because he does it in practice every single day."

Brown has a history of performing at his best on big stages. He had season highs in receptions during bowls at the end of each of his final two years at Central Michigan. He then left after his junior season, becoming a sixth-round pick.

Then there's his first regular-season NFL game, Sept. 19 at Tennessee. Mewelde Moore fielded the opening kickoff and handed off to Brown, a two-time All-Mid-American Conference selection. He ran it 89 yards for what ended up being Pittsburgh's only touchdown. The Steelers won, 19-11.

"That's what he does," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "He makes plays."

Brown, obviously, was disappointed he fell in the draft. But, hey, being on the Steelers isn't all that bad, right?

"The pieces fit together so well," Brown said. "Just being part of something that's bigger than us. Coming to this organization and getting to know great people. I'm just thankful to be a part of it."

Brown had 14 of his 16 receptions this season over the final five games, then had three catches for 75 yards in Saturday's win against Baltimore. He's also become the top return man.

Meanwhile, New York Jets linebacker Jason Taylor has sat out the team's first practice in preparation for the game, but has been cleared by doctors to play Sunday night.

Coach Rex Ryan said Wednesday that Taylor was injured at some point during the Jets' 28-21 win at New England last Sunday, and felt the effects of it later that night. Ryan says he expects Taylor to practice today after he passed medical tests and is "ready to roll."

Also, HBO is taking viewers back to how it all began for the Jets, replaying all five episodes of "Hard Knocks" the day before the AFC Championship Game. The five-hour marathon starts at 3 p.m. Saturday on HBO2.


Foot surgery for Brady

BOSTON -- The Boston Globe reported New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will have right foot surgery today.

The operation will repair a lingering stress fracture. The Globe, citing an unidentified source, reported on its website Wednesday night that Brady could delay the surgery to Monday but no later than that.

Brady is coming off an outstanding season for the Patriots that could net him his second NFL MVP award. He threw for 3,900 yards and led the league in passer rating, touchdown passes (36) and fewest interceptions (four).


Around the league

*NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and union Executive Director DeMaurice Smith spoke face-to-face in New York, while more than a dozen current or former players were on Capitol Hill for face time with lawmakers and congressional staffers. Union spokesman George Atallah characterized Wednesday's session between Goodell and Smith as "an effort to advance the bargaining," rather than a formal negotiating session toward a new labor contract. Atallah would not discuss the substance of the meeting in any detail.

*New Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson has started the process of putting together his new staff, getting permission to talk to Baltimore assistant Al Saunders about filling the offensive coordinator vacancy. Saunders has been an offensive consultant for Baltimore the past two seasons.

*John Fox is still searching for a defensive coordinator to join him in Denver after failing to lure Jim Mora Jr. to help fix the Broncos' dismal defense. The former head coach in Atlanta and Seattle spent two days in Denver meeting with Fox but left without a contract agreement.

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