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Tony Dejak, Associated Press
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) hands the ball off to running back Rashard Mendenhall (34) in the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, in Cleveland.

DENVER — Champ Bailey had the interception in his grasp and the end zone in his sights as Hines Ward began to fall and the fluttering football hung in the air along with the fortunes of two of the NFL's most storied franchises.

Ward somehow came down with the deflected pass from Ben Roethlisberger, holding on despite a jaw-jarring hit from John Lynch. Bailey pounded the ground with his fist in disgust and the Pittsburgh Steelers commenced with their 34-17 dismantling of the Denver Broncos in the AFC title game following the 2005 season.

That watershed afternoon of Jan. 22, 2006, sent the Steelers and Broncos on divergent paths, one that crosses again Sunday in an AFC wild card game at Sports Authority Field in snowy Denver.