FLORHAM PARK, N.J.- Unlike their match-ups with the pass-happy offenses that Indianapolis and New England feature, the 2011 AFC Championship game will be decided in a place that the Jets feel comfortable. No, I’m not talking about Pittsburgh’s Heinz field, where the Jets are a career 1-7, rather the trenches.
A bruising defense coupled with an equally bruising ground game is how Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum built this Jets team. As it happens, the Steelers are also built in a similar fashion.
“We’ve called [this game] before a triple chinstrap game, a straight-ahead, no fair dodging game,” Ryan said. “Both teams are built the same. It’s going to be one heck of a game to way. All I want to do is find a way to win, by one point, whatever.”
In the regular season, the Jets ranked third in the NFL in total defense giving up 291.5 yards per game. The Steelers ranked second, giving up 276.8 per. The Jets came in third in rushing yards allowed per game, with 90.9. The Steelers led the league, giving up an anemic 62.8 per game.
It are these similarities that makes praising the opposing team a lot easier, than, say, speaking the praises of a certain division rival that has often been referred to “That Team Up North”.
“I look at [the Steelers] as the way football’s meant to be played. This two hard-hitting, hard-nosed teams, getting ready to go at it. Just roll the clock back about 30 years or so, that’s the kind of game it’s going to be. That’s who we are, and that’s who Pittsburgh is. And that’s who Pittsburgh has always been, so I respect that. I respect the way they play.”
So how do the Jets go about beating a similar foe, in their home building–a place that has haunted the organization their whole career? Well, after exorcising the quarterback demons that are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, anything is possible.
To beat the Steelers the Jets simply have to continue to play the way they have on the road since Ryan has taken over the team. Play ball-control football.
“Did we turn the ball over versus the Colts? Did we turn the ball over against the Patriots,” Santonio Holmes, who was drafted by the Steelers before being traded the to Jets this past off-season, questioned. “That is the key. That is the key to winning any game on the road. Not giving those guys opportunites. Runna four-minute offense with four minutes on the clock to end the game and not turn the ball over.”
Sounds like the Jets are looking to give Pittsburgh a taste of the their own medicine. Despite their 22-17 Week 15 loss, the Steelers and Rashad Mendenhall ran over the Jets for 99 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. While the Shonn Greene and LaDanian Tomlinson combined for 90 yards, that was without the Steeler’s defensive cog, Troy Polamalu.
“I honestly think Troy Polamalu is probably the greatest player I’ve ever played with or ever seen play in person. He’s jumping over the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball. He’s talking running backs in the backfield. He’s jumping up, intercepting balls one-handed. He’s returning it for touchdowns,” Holmes said.
Coming up with a scout player to do what Polamalu can do may be troublesome, as there is no one even comparable to his skill set. But come Sunday, the Jets will look themselves in the mirror and know they have what it takes to bring home the Lamar Hunt trophy.