American football: Steelers reinforced by Bettis

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The Independent Online
The Pittsburgh Steelers stand in the way of the New England Patriots' possible return to the Super Bowl today when the two teams meet at Three Rivers Stadium in the American Football Conference play-offs.

Pittsburgh, eliminated from the post-season play-offs in humiliating fashion last year by the Pats, are rested and their rushing attack should receive a boost with the return of Jerome Bettis from injury. Their rush defence is the best in the NFL. However, it will be tested by Curtis Martin, who gained 166 yards in New England's 28-3 win over the Steelers last season.

In the National Football Conference play-offs, Randall Cunningham and the Minnesota Vikings go to San Francisco after their last-second, 23- 22 victory over the New York Giants. Cunningham threw a touchdown pass in the final two minutes before taking Minnesota forward for the game- winning field goal.

San Francisco, meanwhile, will be without their injured running back Garrison Hearst. But the 49ers' defence makes the club firm favourites.