JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Jeff Reed, a rookie who left his job cutting grass on a dairy farm last week to replace the injured Todd Peterson as Pittsburgh's kicker, equaled a club record with six field goals Sunday and boosted the Steelers to a 25-23 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"These are the kind of days you live for if you're a kicker," Reed said. "It's a dream come true. On the other hand, it's all about winning and losing. If I don't get any attempts and we win, then I'm fine with that too.
"The last thing I want to do is let this team down."
Reed, who kicked three field goals in his debut against Cincinnati last week, converted attempts from 24, 29, 30, 46, 33 and 50 yards. Gary Anderson set the club record when he made six field goals against Denver in 1988.
"It's nice to have a very dependable kicker," Steelers Coach Bill Cowher said. "I can't say enough about him today. It gives you a sense that you know your efforts aren't going under water.
"It's very deflating to not score a touchdown. But certainly there's a degree of satisfaction that you can take back away that at least you scored some points. We weren't finishing drives today but we were able to keep putting points on the board."
Reed became the first kicker to make six field goals in a game since Olindo Mare and Jason Hanson both did it on Oct. 17, 1999. The NFL record is seven and has been achieved three times, most recently by Chris Boniol of the Dallas Cowboys in 1996.
Reed, who kicked for only two years in college at North Carolina, became the first rookie in NFL history to make six field goals in a game without missing. Garo Yepremian made six in a game as a Detroit Lions rookie in 1966, but missed along the way.
Pittsburgh's new kicker could have had a chance for a seventh if not for a key play by Pittsburgh's defense. After Jimmy Smith's seven-yard touchdown catch with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter brought Jacksonville (5-7) to within two points, cornerback Dwayne Washington batted down Mark Brunell's conversion pass at the goal line to preserve Pittsburgh's lead.
"Every game we prepare a specific two-point play for the opponent," Jaguars Coach Tom Coughlin said. "If (Brunell) was to think they were going to do something else, he could signal another pattern, but there was no clue there.
"The safety lined up tight and moved out late and Mark was well into the play and didn't have a chance to react to it. Mark tried to throw it in, they ended up with a double on Jimmy."
The Steelers (7-4-1) then recovered an onside kick and took a knee to seal their sixth victory in the last eight games.
The win, coupled with Cleveland's 13-6 loss to Carolina, increased Pittsburgh's lead in the AFC North to 1 1/2 games. The Baltimore Ravens moved into a second-place tie with Cleveland by defeating Cincinnati, 27-23.
"It's important, we know," Cowher said. "The bell's been rung. This is the final lap. We talked about this thing being a race, a four-lap race, and you want to position yourself the first three laps.
"We've done that. There aren't that many teams that can sit there in December and say that they have control of their destiny. That's the only thing we can ask for, and it's the only thing that you would want."
Brunell completed 12 of 23 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Jerome Bettis carried 20 times for 86 yards to pass John Riggins for 10th all-time on the NFL rushing list with 11,373 yards. Bettis did most of his running with a broken nose that he sustained early in the game.
"Passing Riggins means a lot to me because he's a big, powerful back," said the 256-pound Bettis. "I got a chance to see John at the end of his career. They physicalness of him was very impressive."
Quarterback Kordell Stewart, subbing for the injured Tommy Maddox for the second straight week, scored Pittsburgh's only touchdown on a 28-yard run. Stewart piled up 84 yards on 12 carries to go with his 202 passing yards. Pittsburgh rushed for 219 yards, the third-most ever against Jacksonville.
Richie Cunningham, the Jaguars' third kicker this season, was perfect on a field goal and two extra points in his first NFL game since 2000. Jacksonville has also used Tim Seder and rookie Hayden Epstien, both of whom were cut after missing four field goals apiece.
Jacksonville elected not to sign Reed after a tryout in October. The Jaguars were one of eight teams that Reed auditioned with before catching on with the Steelers.
"He had a strong leg," Coughlin said. "He was inconsistent. But he did have a strong leg."
Reed was consistent enough for the Steelers to push the Jaguars to the brink of playoff elimination. Jacksonville is still mathematically alive despite having the AFC's third-worst record, better than only Houston and Cincinnati.
"I'm not going to pretend that everything is OK," Brunell said. "All indications are that we are out of it completely and that's difficult."