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Steel one in Pittsburgh

By Justin Paley
Jets Insider.com Staff Writer
January 14th, 2005

Following the close loss by the Jets to the Steelers in December, the team left Heinz Field disappointed and unsatisfied. Now, five weeks later they are chomping at the bit for another shot at the best team in the AFC who they felt they should have beaten the first time. The prize? A trip to the AFC Championship and a shot at the Superbowl.

**ALSO** Abraham out again for Steelers.

Following the close loss by the Jets to the Steelers in December, the team left Heinz Field disappointed and unsatisfied. Now, five weeks later they are chomping at the bit for another shot at the best team in the AFC who they felt they should have beaten the first time. The prize? A trip to the AFC Championship and a shot at the Superbowl.

The Jets know if they want to beat the mighty Black and Gold this time around, they cannot make the same mistakes they did in week 14 when they lost 17-6.

The in the first game the team committed three turnovers and an unheard of, 12 penalties in the first half. If they repeat this trend then chances of beating the 15-1 Steelers are slim. However, if the Jets play mistake free football, they will have a good shot at and upset.

“We're going to have to be at our very, very best to be able to beat them,” Jets head coach Herman Edwards said. “Obviously we'll be ready to play our best game on Saturday.”

During their meeting in December, Jets QB Chad Pennington was rusty in his second game back from a strained rotator cuff. He went on to have his worst performance of the season, throwing three interceptions. This week again, Pennington may not be at 100% as he sat out practice on Wednesday with stomach flu. He returned on Thursday and seemed back to normal however the Jets’s staff hope that the illness does not effect the QB’s stamina on Saturday. Pennington needs to have a similar performance to last week’s win over the Chargers, where Pennington passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

Pennington talked about what the Jets have to do against the Steelers defense.

“We have to be patient,” Pennington said. “It is not about confusion, it is about being patient and not trying to force things. They do a great job in coverage. Their safeties and linebackers do a great job underneath and we have to make sure we remain patient. If we get a chance to hit a big time play, we have to hit it because you don’t get too many.”

One of the keys for the Jets will be establishing the running game. The Jets totaled only 107 yards on the ground in the first meeting on December 12 and the Steelers ended the regular season as the top-ranked rushing defense, allowing 81.2 yards per game.

The Jets will have to use the 1-2 punch of RB Curtis Martin and RB Lamont Jordan. Jordan will definitely need to carry the ball more than three times, like he did on December 12. You can bet that Jordan will get a lot of touches this week, as a national TV audience saw an argument between Edwards and Jets RB’s Coach Bishop Harris on the San Diego sidelines last week when Jordan was not in the game enough. The Coach talked about what happens when Jordan gets into open space.

“If he catches the ball, hard to tackle, and if you miss him, he can run for a touchdown and nobody is going to catch him,” Edwards said.

Martin knows Pittsburgh’s defense will be tough.

“It is probably our most difficult challenge of the year,” Martin said. “Unlike the regular season, the playoffs are just a little faster, a little more intense and they probably have the best front seven in the NFL. It is going to be a challenge. We know that. We know it is going to be a dogfight, we know it is going to be hard-fought yards. I think it is a challenge we are willing to accept and hopefully do well against.”

Earlier this week, Martin was asked if he feels fatigued.

“Once you get into the playoffs, it is like the season starts over,” Martin said. “You are kind of rejuvenated. That is how I feel and that is the way we have been practicing.”

Last week, the Jets did a nice job getting the wide receivers involved. Santana Moss caught four passes for 100 yards and a touchdown and Justin McCareins had a team-high eight catches for 87 yards.

Edwards talked about the Jets mindset on the road.

“We always say, ‘Take the crowd out of the game early,’” Edwards said. “If you can just keep the crowd at bay, don't let the home team get an advantage on you and score points on you early, you take 'em out.”

Leading the way for the Steelers defense is LB James Farrior, who played with the Jets from 1997-2001. Farrior, who was selected to the first Pro Bowl of his career, led the Steelers with 119 tackles and also had three sacks, four interceptions, and three fumble recoveries this year. Jets GM Terry Bradway publicly admitted this week that letting Farrior go as a free agent in 2002 was the biggest mistake he’s made as the team’s GM.

Jets C Kevin Mawae talked about what makes Farrior such a good player.

“He has a lot of speed, lot of quickness and a lot of smarts,” Mawae said. “He is a guy that we have to be able to contain, him along with the other three guys that they have roaming the backfield. It is going to be a challenge but we know what we are up against and I think that we are going to be ok.”

Farrior explained how the Steelers caused Pennington to throw three interceptions on December 12.

“We tried to show him a lot of different looks,” Farrior said. “We didn’t want him to get comfortable in reading our defense too easy. We tried to show him different looks to try and confuse him a little bit, and I think we did a good job of that so we are probably going to do some of the same things we have done in the last game, but we are going to tweak it a little bit.”

Steelers rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger had an outstanding season, passing for 2,621 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. But against the Jets on December 12, Roethlisberger had his worst performance of the season, only completing nine of his 19 passes for 144 yards, no touchdowns, and two touchdowns.

Edwards has been impressed with Roethlisberger.

“He's a very good quarterback,” Edwards said. “He understands what he's supposed to do. I think that's one of his greatest assets. He has a lot of great assets, he's strong, he's competitive, he's tough, he can run. But he understands -- he understands his role as a quarterback. He's not a guy that's hung up on numbers.”

If the Jets are going to win, they will again have to rattle Roethslisberger.

“We are going into this game with the attitude that any team can get beat on any given day and we are just going to go in there and see what happens,” Jets CB Donnie Abraham said. “We are going to play aggressive and continue to play our style of defense.”

Just like the Jets, the Steelers will look to establish the running game. RB Jerome Bettis (941 yards, 13 TD) and Duce Staley (830 yards, TD) are both banged up but both expected to play.

“We have to stop the run,” Jets DE Shaun Ellis said. “Everybody knows Pittsburgh loves to run the ball. We have to stop the run and eliminate big plays and don’t go to sleep. They lull you to sleep with the run game and they hit you with big plays. You just have to stay consistent and play physical with them and match their intensity.”

Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress are a formidable receiving duo. Ward led the Steelers with 80 catches for 1,004 yards and four touchdowns. “He brings a lot of challenges because he is a go-across-the-middle guy and he is their possession guy and the guy they want to go to when they try to get a first down,” Jets CB David Barrett said of Ward.

Burress caught 35 passes for 698 yards and five touchdowns. Burress missed the first game between the Jets and Steelers with a hamstring injury. Abraham talked about what makes Burress a dangerous threat.

“He is a prototypical bigger receiver where he is big, fast and can catch the ball,” Abraham said. “In this League you are going to be faced with those types of receivers or you are going to be faced with smaller, quicker receivers. He just fits the mold of the bigger receiver that can run well and catch the ball.”

After the Jets lost to Pittsburgh, Ellis said if the teams met again, the Jets would win. When asked about his guarantee earlier this week, Ellis did not back down.

“I still believe that,” Ellis said. “We have to go out there and show them and prove it. We have to back it up.”

Jets LB Jonathan Vilma was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and last week led the Jets with 12 tackles. Steelers head coach Bill Cowher likes what the Vilma has done.

“He’s a very instinctive guy who can run,” Cowher said.

Mawae gave his keys to the game.

“I think the biggest thing is to control the football and not to give up turnovers and that kind of thing,” Mawae said. “It was a close game in the fourth quarter last time and we just fell apart. We played a tough game and I think they are expecting us to bring our best and that is we expect out of ourselves.”

One thing the Jets aren’t lacking heading into the re-match is confidence.

“We are just confident because we know what we are capable of,” Martin said. We have seen ourselves perform at our best and we have seen ourselves perform at our worst. We know in order to beat the Steelers we have to be at our best and that is what we expect to do.”

MISCELANEOUS TIDBITS: The Jets are 0-6 all-time in Pittsburgh.

-Edwards career record as a head coach in the postseason is 2-2. That ties him with Hall of Fame Head Coach Weeb Ewbank and Walt Michaels for the most wins by a Jets head coach in postseason history.

-Jets backup QB Quincy Carter has been in Georgia all week tending to his ailing mother and it’s unlikely that he will even be at the game on Saturday. That being said, QB Brooks Bollinger will be the #2 QB this week and Ricky Ray will be #3.

INJURY REPORT: DE John Abraham (knee) did some light work during Wednesday and Thursday’s practice and although he still is listed as questionable, he will not play on Saturday. Abraham had a confrontation with reporters after Thursday’s practice where he stated that his comments last week regarding his injury and his future as a free agent were taken out of context.

"You said I said something about a contract and I didn't say anything about that,” said Abraham. “That's crazy. I said my future and it was taken completely out of context. "I never said anything about a contract. I told the Jets I'd be happy if I got franchised here. I never said I wanted a contract. I don't know where that came from. That was completely off the wall. I think y’all needed something to write and you all fabricated that situation."

The agitated Pro-Bowler then stormed into the locker room without answering questions.

DT Dewayne Robertson who was on Wednesday’s injury list with a bruised knee was taken off on Thursday and will play. WR Wayne Chrebet (concussion) was taken off the list earlier this week and will also play on Saturday. Backup LB Kenyatta Wright (foot) did not practice all week and will likely be inactive for the Steelers. Here is the complete list of injuries for this week.

-DE John Abraham (knee): Questionable
-LB Kenyatta Wright (foot): Questionable

The Jets-Chargers game will be broadcast locally on CBS Channel 2 with kickoff scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Local Radio is 1050 ESPN Radio. Check back often to Jets Insider.com for all the latest Jets news and team reports.

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