Jets Prepare for Big Ben and the Steelers

By John Melillo
Jets, Staff Writer
December 8th, 2004
Arguably the biggest regular season challenge for Gang Green will come at Heinz Field this Sunday versus the 11-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. Led by rookie sensation QB Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers will pose a daunting task and a high quality opponent for the 9-3 Jets.

Arguably the biggest regular season challenge for Gang Green will come at Heinz Field this Sunday versus the 11-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. Led by rookie sensation QB Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers will pose a daunting task and a high quality opponent for the 9-3 Jets.

“I think it’s a great situation for us our last four games,” Edwards said. “ We’re playing against teams with two of them having 11-1 records. The other two are fighting to win their division. We’re sitting at 9-3 and that’s not good enough. We got to win some more games. This (Sunday) is an important game because the (Steelers) are a very good football team.”

While QB Chad Pennington disagreed with the assessment that Sunday’s game holds greater importance compared to other games, he did acknowledge how pivotal a victory would be for Gang Green's playoff hopes.

“There are no statement games in the NFL,” Pennington said. “That’s college. In the NFL, the talent level is the same. Both teams have a lot at stake and we’re trying to solidify a wild card spot (in the playoffs).”

Edwards credited the job of coach Bill Cowher and the historical tradition of the Steelers franchise as a primary reason for their consistent success.

(Cowher) has understood the mold,” Edwards said. “The Pittsburgh Steelers have always been a physical, running football team. They always played great defense. That’s always been their mentality. That foundation was built (by former head coach) Chuck Noll.”

Likewise, Edwards revealed the Jets’ formula for success this season.

“You need to hang your hat on something,” said Edwards. “Our formula is to take the ball away, not turn the ball over, run the ball and stop the run, and don’t beat yourself on penalties. If you do that, you got a chance.”

Both clubs have enjoyed triumphant campaigns thus far this season, but oddly enough, the Jets’ success has flown under the radar.

“I think the perception is sometimes not the reality,” Edwards said. “You look at certain teams, like the Indianapolis Colts and you say ‘wow’ because their quarterback has thrown 44 touchdown passes this year. Maybe we haven’t blown people out enough. Last year, we were 6-10. Now, we’re 9-3. Our team has nothing to put their head down in the sand.”

Nonetheless, Edwards stressed that being the Super Bowl favorite in December does not always translate into being awarded the Lombardi trophy at the end of the postseason.

“We’re a good football team,” Edwards said. “Are we a great football team? No, we’re a good team. Good can accomplish a lot of things.”

And that was exactly Roethlisberger’s point in a conference call with the NY media this afternoon. Roethlisberger stressed Sunday’s game versus the Jets will be an equally daunting task.

“It’s going to be our biggest challenge of the year,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s going to be our biggest game of the year. (The Jets) have a great defense and we’re going to have to execute (our offense) to the best of our abilities to be successful versus their defense.”

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS: Edwards reflected on the careers of two potential Hall of Fame running backs in Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis, who will face off this Sunday and are the verge of surpassing the 13,000 rushing-yard mark in their respective careers. “Curtis is a slasher, more of a cut-back runner. Jerome is obviously a bigger guy, who has great feet. I think they’re both very gifted and they’re both quality people.”

-The Coach praised the performance of Steelers LB James Farrior, a former first- round draft choice of the Jets. “(Farrior) is having a Pro Bowl year,” Edwards said. “He can do it all. He plays well in space, can cover man-to-man, blitz. He’s a fantastic player. He was one of my favorites.”

-DE Bryan Thomas, who is expected to replace injured DE John Abraham (knee) this Sunday, has progressed each season, according to Edwards. “(Thomas) is having his best season,” said Edwards. “He’s grown up this year and doing the extra things to be a good player. He’s been a solid player for us this year.” Thomas said he feels more comfortable in the midst of his third season. “I’ve made a bunch of improvement,” Thomas said. “I see and know the game better.”

Likewise, Edwards praised rookie DE Trevor Johnson, who will also receive playing time in Abraham’s absence. “We call (Trevor) ‘Running Man’ because he’s always running around (in practice). He has a good motor. He can play both (end positions). He plays on special teams. We anticipate he’ll play well when he’s in there.”

-Edwards commended rookie LB Jonathan Vilma for being “the most mature rookie since I’ve been here.” Edwards later added, “He acts like he’s been here for five years.” On a humorous note, Edwards recalled the maturity level of last year’s first-round choice, DT Dewayne Robertson. “I don’t know what he was last year. We had him buried and dead (last year),” Edwards said of the immature 2003 draft pick. “Not anymore (this year).”

-Edwards’ career record versus the Steelers is 1-1. The 6-0 win came last December during a heavy snowstorm at the Meadowlands.

INJURY REPORT: The Jets are relatively healthy heading into Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. Here is this week’s injury report.

-DE John Abraham (knee): Out
-LB Victor Hobson (ankle): Questionable
-LB Jason Glenn (forearm): Probable
-WR Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring): Probable
-S Oliver Celestin (ankle): Probable

The team will continue their preparation for the 11-1 Steelers tomorrow and Friday. Check back often to Jets for all the latest team news and reports.

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