Don’t you just love this time of year? The conference final has a home team with passionate fans which is antithetical to Super Bowl corporate yahoo crowds. They’re so staid…I love the noise that is generated as the teams are introduced and hope the networks let us hear and feel that intensity and not talk over what the cameras and microphones are picking up. Yet its time for the two most magical games to take place.
As I look at this game the first thing you have to realize is the league’s number 2 & 3 ranked defense in the Steelers and Jets respectively. Each team runs a tough 3-4 defense that are stout against the run yet the Steelers offense comes in with a glaring weakness with 2 backup tackles. We know the son of Buddy Ryan will send blitzes at different times against Ben Roethlisberger. We know Big Ben is one of the greatest quarterbacks in the league, yet can get sacked going after the big play. He’s a big body and feels like that he can shake free from a blitzer and often does. Last week the Ravens were getting to him in the first half and that offensive line hasn’t improved on the health front. Furthermore Darrelle Revis has returned to “Revis Island” form while Antonio Cromartie, and nickleback Drew Coleman are jelling as a secondary and can stay with the Steelers recievers when Ben extends the play. Evidenced by one play last week where Tom Brady couldn’t find a reciever when he had 8.5 seconds to do so. Don’t forget that Revis is from Pittsburgh. Revis on Mike Wallace will throw the Steelers for a loop. Advantage Jets.
The key to a Steelers victory quite simply are the legs of Rashard Mendenhall. Is it me or is he not the perfect back for the Pittsburgh Steelers? He just fits the image in your mind of the Steelers running the football. He has to have a 120 yard game and wear down the Jets defense. Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor are older outside linebackers who don’t have rocks in their pockets and can be moved run blocking wise. He has to keep the Steelers out of obvious passing situations where their line can be exposed. Hard nosed, nearly rushed for 1,300 yards, he has a legitimate chance to do that.
Countering that the Jets are going with a two headed monster of LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene (what kind of spelling is that) …anyway They are averaging over 120 yards in the playoffs and can easily switch to a runner with livelier legs in a particular half. We saw this when the Jets switched to Tomlinson to start the second half against the Colts in the wildcard round. Greene last week was the hotter hand in the divisional round when he ran for 76 yards agains the Patriots last week. They as a group are averaging over 120 yards themselves. Advantage push…until you read next paragraph..
When it comes to defense lets face it…The Jets play great defense, the Steelers are defense. Each team stops the run well. The Steelers are #1 against the run, giving up only 62.8 yards a game. The Jets are giving up 90.9 yards a game. The Steelers win that matchup. Could see Mendenhall pushing over 100 yards grudgingly. The Jets will have to over-reach to make it to their goal of 120 yards. The Steelers have great pass rushers in Harrison (10.5 sacks) and LaMarr Woodley (10 sacks) and are clearly the Steelers wildcard. Their secondary at one point late in the season were ranked 22nd against the pass who have to contend against former teammate Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. Slight advantage Steelers.
Mark Sanchez doesn’t have great stats but he did last week throwing for 3 TDs last week and outperformed Tom Brady. He’s progressing and has done so all year. All year. After throwing Hall of Famers Tom Brady and Peyton Manning out of the playoffs it is time to wake up to the fact that he’s won 4 playoff games. He is a legitimate quarterback and has played all five of his game on the road. Don’t look now but I think he’s going to win his 6th if he gets the running game going or completing passes on rollouts.
Those things said…I’m going with the Jets in this game, 27-24. There is something that will come to pass with those tackles of the Steelers. I’m afraid there will be a turnover that will quiet Heinz Field. The Jets are a mirror image of what the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers were. Hungry, veteran laden, young quarterback and a tough running game. I have the Jets in a tough game where they won a few weeks ago. Santonio Holmes and Brad Smith will provide a few spark plays as well… Based on emotion and defensive Xs and Os…
2010 AFC Champion: New York Jets