What was once a 24-0 blowout had been whittled to a most uncomfortable five-point advantage at 24-19 and there was still enough time remaining for the Jets to get the ball back and break the vast majority of the hearts in what had been the largest Steelers crowd in Heinz Field history.
That's when the Steelers opted to do their best to take Sunday night's AFC Championship Game by the throat once and for all.
On second-and-9 from the Steelers' 42-yard line with 2:50 left in regulation quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rolled out and found tight end Heath Miller for 14 yards and a critical first down.
Then on third-and-6 from the Jets' 40 just inside the two-minute warning, Roethlisberger found wide receiver Antonio Brown for 14 more yards and the first down that put the Steelers into kneel-down mode, the final detail left to attend to along the way to Dallas and Super Bowl XLV.
"It was a gutsy play," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. "It was a great throw (to Miller) and a gutsy play, no question. So was that last one (to Brown), two great calls by (Mike) Tomlin.
"I tip my hat to them that they actually were putting the ball in the air. I thought they'd run it again."
Instead, the Steelers opted to close the game out on offense.
"You know they're going to play heavy run, and that bootleg is always pretty good, especially when Heath is going to be in a man-to-man situation," offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "Ben made a heckuva throw. And the last play, you either play to punt and hold onto your butt or you play to win. Coach (Tomlin) said 'play to win,' and we had a call we knew we wanted.
"Ben just made a heck of a play and Antonio stepped up."
Roethlisberger finished 10 for 19 passing for 133 yards, with no touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 35.5.
Arians said the interception on a deep ball intended for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders resulted from Sanders not coming back for the ball.
Roethlisberger also fumbled a couple of snaps (one resulting in a safety that cut the Steelers' lead to 24-12) and rushed 11 times for 21 yards and a touchdown.
Arians wasn't complaining.
"I've seen him play better," Arians said, "but he played extremely poised. I thought Ben played extremely well, especially knowing when to run, when to pull it down and go get first downs.
"He was a better running back, maybe, than a passer at times."
Roethlisberger was thankful the offense was able to close the Jets out, but didn't take much credit for his final two completions.
"The first one to Heath was (a) horrible (throw)," Roethlisberger said. "He made a heck of a play for me. And the last one was just, I don't know where it was, I kinda got hit as soon I threw it. I was going to run for it, I had been doing it all night.
"I saw (Brown) come (open) and the little guy made a heck of a play."