Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after they stopped the New York Jets on the goal line on the fourth down in the fourth quarter of the 2011 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

AFC Championship Game, New York Jets Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: 24-19 Steelers Win

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AFC Championship Game Jets Vs. Steelers: Steelers Win 24-19

The New York Jets are driving to open the fourth quarter. On fourth and less than a yard at the 18 yard line, they push Shonn Greene through for a first down. A botched snap loses eight yards. A draw to Greene gets 17 yards. Mark Sanchez hits Jerricho Cotchery on a screen for the first and goal from the three.

A goal line stand by the Steelers holds them out of the end zone, and Pittsburgh will take over on downs.

On first down, another Steelers bobbled snap results in a safety for the Jets

24-12 Steelers

The free kick to the Jets is returned to the 42. Braylon Edwards gets another key catch into Pittsburgh territory. On the next play, Sanches falls into Jets center Nick Mangold, he's down and there's an injury timeout.  On a fourth and one, they pickmup ten on a quick slant, and they're in the red zone. Sanchez keeps hitting Dustin Keller to move the chains. They're having communication problems, and they're using too much time. but on second and goal from the Cothcery gets the touchdown.

24-19 Steelers

The Steelers will start from their 40 , with just under three minutes left.  After a two yard run from Rashard Mendenhall, the Jets call their first timeout. Roethlisberger finds Heath Miller for 14 yards, and the Jets will call timeout again. They'll have one more and the two minute warning to stop the clock. Mendenhall gets two, and forces the Jets to use their final timeout. Mendenhall gets the ball again. They'll let time run out to the two minute warning.

Third and six, and Roethlisberger is chased out of the pocket, but he finds Antonio Brown for the first down, and they'll run out the clock.

24-19 Steelers final.

Congratulations to the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans.


AFC Championship Game Jets Vs. Steelers:24-10 steelers After Three

The Jets receive the kickoff to open the second half. The ball is dropped, and they start from near their 10. Shonn Greene takes the ball 22 yards, but he's hurt when he's poushed hard to the sideline. There's some confusion, and the jets are forced to use a timeoutJ

They strike quickly, and Mark Sanchez  firnds Santonio Holmes twice for long gains, the second for a touchdown.

24-10 Steelers

The Steelers take the kickoff to the 28, ben Roethlisberger, shakes a rusher, then scrambles for four. Rashard Mendenhall takes handoff for another four, an incomplete and the steelers go three and out.

The wind chill has dipped the temps below zero.

The Jets commit a roughing the kicker penalty, and the Steelers get new life. They're just across the 50, and they're using the clock well. The Jets lost some momentum with that penalty. Roethlisberger throws towards the end zone, and he's intercepted. The Jets will take over at their own 14 .

They go three and out, and punt. Antwaan Randle El lets the ball roll out of his arms, out of bounds near the 30. rashard Mendenhall continues to slash through the line for big gains. Roethlisberger runs for three to get a first, and a defensive holding penalty adds five, as the Steelers cross midfield. The jets drop Big Ben for a loss of seven, their first sack of the evening. They lose three more on the next play, as the Jets are getting in the backfield, and they sack Roethlisberger for a loss of anothe rfive yards. The Steelers will punt on fourth and 25.

The Jets fair catch at the 19 , with 50 seconds left in the quarter . Braylon Edwards gets a catch for a first. The Steelers Ryan Clark has to be helped off the field.

At the end of three, it's 24 10 Steelers


AFC Championship Game Jets Vs. Steelers: Steelers Lead 24-3 At Half

The Pittsburgh Steelers are driving, and they're helped across midfield by a roughing call on a defenseless receiver. Rashard Mendenhall is getting chunks of yards on every run. He's got 50 rushing yards early. Brian Thomas gets an interception, off Mendenahll's fingertips, and the Jets get the ball back at the 35, but they lose four on first down. They lose five more on a false start, they go three and out.

A Steelers bounce on the punt, gives them the ball at their 38. Another great run by Mendenhall takes them to the Jets 27. He gets eight more on the next play. Redman takes the ball and gets to the seven. Pittsburgh has over 125 yards on the ground already. Pittsburgh takes a timeout. They can't convert on third and goal, they'll kick the field goal.

10-0 Pittsburgh

The Steelers kickoff out of bounds, and start from their 40, but they can't capitalize. They're three and out. They punt and the Steelers start from their 34. A pass to Heath Miller takes them into Jets territory. hey've dominated time of possession with the run, but a couple of long passes on this drive got them into the red zone again. Rashard Mendenhall falls at the two yard line, and on the next play Ben Roethlisberger takes it on for the score.

17-0 Steelers

The two minute warning coincides with the Steelers kickoff. It's a squib kick and Brad Smith takes it to the 33. Mark Sanchez is sacked on first down, and nearly picked off on second down. They haven't had a chance to get in synch. Snachez is hit while dropping back, the ball pops out, and William Gay picks it up and runs it in for a score. There is a booth review, to decide if it was a fumble or incomplete pass. Mark sanchez had to be helped off the field, he's holding his arm.  The ruling is confirmed.

24 -0 Steelers

With 1:13 left, the Jets will receive again. Sanchez comes back out, and Jerricho Cotchery is down, hurt on the runback. The Jets will start from their 30. They have 12 total yards of offense thus far in the quarter.

Two completes, and the Jets get their only first down of quarter. They get another on a defensive penalty. They're moving the ball into field goal range. With 14 seconds left, they'll send out Nick Folk, and he makes the 42 yarder.

24-3 Steelers

The Jets squib kick to the 32 yard line with eight seconds, and the Steelers take a knee to end the half.


AFC Championship Game Jets Vs. Steelers: 7-0 Steelers After One Quarter

The AFC Championship game between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field is about to begin. It's 15 F with the wind chill making it feel like 5F.

The Jets kickoff and the Steelers will start at their 34. In the midst of a nice drive across midfield. Ben Roethlisberger is hobbling, after taking a knee to the thigh. Rashard Mendenhall makes a beautfiul play, gaining eight on what looked like a broken play. The Steelers are running right at the defense. Roethlisberger floats one to Heath Miller, but the replay shows it loose on the ground. Rex Ryan challenges the call. It's ruled incomplete.

Even with an injured, after a Jets defender falls on his calf.

Mendenhalll scores on the next play. The drive eats 9:06 off the clock.

7-0 Steelers

The Jets start from their 27 yard line. They fight their way to midfield, on the strength of a pass interference call. The Steelers D is tight in coverage, and the drive stalls. With under two minute left in the quarter, they punt. The Steelers will take over at their own 13. They're driving,as time expires in the first quarter

7-0 Steelers


AFC Championship, Jets Vs. Steelers: Game Day!

The AFC Championship game between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers will kickoff today at 6:30 EST (5:30 CST). The weather is a brisk 15F, but the wind chill factor makes it feel more like 2F.

The one thing that all four teams remaining in the tournament have in common, is good defense. All four ranked in the top ten in total defense. And while they all have offenses capable of putting up big numbers, their defenses have served as the backbone of their respective regular season successes.

The key to victory in today's AFC game is going to be turnovers. The teams are very evenly matched in most respects. A special teams touchdown was the difference in New York's victory over Pittsburgh in the regular season. It's really no revelation, but this year more than ever the teams that have won consistently, have done so by eliminating mistakes.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan is a very good game manager, who gets impatient. Ryan will usually take the big gamble, when his team hits a lull. If you can play your game, and limit the Jets first downs, eventually Rex Ryan will take a big risk. If you're prepared for that, you can make the Jets pay.

Personally I believe a healthy Troy Polamalu means being prepared to take advantage of the possibility of mistakes. And I think he'll be the difference in this game. The SB Nation preview has the Jets winning this game, but  think it's going to be the Steelers day. Their long,cold day.

Keep your eye on SB Nation Chicago, we will be keeping you updated on all the week's NFL news along with live reports during both games. Add @sbnchicago and @BabylonDon1 to your Twitter account, and be informed of every 2011 playoff update on SB Nation Chicago


AFC Championship game, Jets Vs. Steelers: Sports Network Preview

(Sports Network) – The Pittsburgh Steelers hold membership in a very exclusive club, one they’ll be trying to prevent the New York Jets from joining when the two teams get together at Heinz Field for Sunday’s AFC Championship.

The Steelers are one of only three organizations, along with New England and Indianapolis, that have represented the AFC in the past seven Super Bowls, having claimed the conference crown under then-head coach Bill Cowher in 2005 and repeating the honor under current sideline boss Mike Tomlin in 2008. Cowher’s squad also became the first — and to date only - team to advance to the NFL’s showcase game as a No. 6 playoff seed, an achievement the battle tested Jets will be aiming to duplicate when they make their second stop in the Steel City in five weeks.

New York helped earn itself a spot in this year’s AFC postseason field with a gritty 22-17 win at Heinz Field on Dec. 19, and its remarkable success on the road under second-year head coach Rex Ryan has carried into the playoffs. The Jets knocked off the defending conference champion Colts in a 17-16 squeaker during the Wild Card Round, then backed up a week’s worth of bulletin-board chatter by downing the top-seeded and previously-rolling Patriots by a 28-21 count this past Sunday to reach the AFC title game in back-to-back years for the first time in franchise history.

Young quarterback Mark Sanchez helped the Jets survive by outplaying his more accomplished and heralded counterpart, Tom Brady, while an expertly-devised scheme by Ryan enabled New York’s defense to slow down a powerful New England attack that had put up at least 31 points in every game of a string of eight consecutive victories coming into last weekend’s showdown.

Sanchez completed 16-of-25 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover to register his fourth playoff triumph on the road, which ties the sophomore signal-caller with Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Roger Staubach and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco for the most by a quarterback in league annals.

Since Ryan took over prior to the 2009 season, the Jets have gone 4-1 on the road in the playoffs and 15-6 overall as the visitor, and are the first team to win twice in enemy venues during the postseason in consecutive years. New York made it to the 2009 AFC Championship as a fifth seed before coming out on the short end of a 30-17 decision to Indianapolis.

Now just one win away from ending a painfully-long 42-year gap between Super Bowl appearances, the Jets will next attempt to take down another conference powerhouse armed with a championship quarterback. The Steelers secured a fourth trip to the conference finals in seven seasons after rallying for a 31-24 verdict over Flacco’s Ravens in last week’s Divisional Round, getting another stout showing from their own formidable defense and some more late-game magic from triggerman Ben Roethlisberger to prevail.

Roethlisberger threw a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes to help Pittsburgh battle back from a 21-7 halftime deficit, then connected on a clutch 58-yard strike to rookie receiver Antonio Brown with two minutes left to set up the deciding touchdown.

The defense played an instrumental role in the comeback as well, forcing three Baltimore turnovers in the tide-turning third quarter and limiting its AFC North rivals to a minuscule 28 yards in the second half.

Pittsburgh yielded a league-low 14.5 points per game during the regular season and also topped the NFL in rushing defense (62.8 ypg), though the Jets did manage 106 yards on the ground in their Week 15 ousting of the Black and Gold. The Steelers were without difference-making safety Troy Polamalu in that contest, however, due to a strained Achilles tendon.

Polamalu will be present for Sunday’s rematch, and the Steelers will also have tight end Heath Miller back after sitting out the previous meeting between the teams with a concussion.

Jets return man Brad Smith, who took back the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in the earlier matchup, is tentatively expected to play this week after missing the New England game with a strained groin.


New York’s above-noted Week 15 win over the Steelers stands as its only positive result in eight lifetime visits to Pittsburgh. That includes the lone postseason encounter between the foes, a 2004 AFC Divisional Playoff at Heinz Field in which the Steelers came through with a 20-17 victory.

Pittsburgh has dominated the all-time regular-season series with the Jets, emerging triumphant in 15 of 19 non-playoff matchups. New York has taken the two most recent bouts, however, having posted a 19-16 overtime decision at the Meadowlands in 2007 in addition to last month’s breakthrough.

Tomlin sports a career 4-1 playoff record but has lost his two lifetime meetings with the Jets. Ryan is also 4-1 in the postseason as a head coach and won his only head-to-head clash with Tomlin and the Steelers back in December.


New York’s general philosophy on offense is to pound the ball behind a top- notch line anchored by a pair of Pro Bowl selections in center Nick Mangold and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. The Jets ranked second in rushing attempts (534) and averaged a healthy 148.4 yards per game on the ground (4th overall) during the regular season, with still-capable veteran LaDainian Tomlinson (125 rushing yards, 2 TD, 6 receptions in playoffs) and physical second-year pro Shonn Greene (146 rushing yards, 1 TD) both effective working behind the strong front wall. The pair managed a pedestrian 89 yards on 23 attempts against Pittsburgh’s sturdy front seven last month, however, meaning Sanchez (383 passing yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) is going to have to make plays for the Jets to move on. The poised 24-year-old did just that against the Patriots, finding Tomlinson as well as wideouts Braylon Edwards (6 receptions, 1 TD) and Santonio Holmes (7 receptions, 1 TD) for red-zone scores that helped trigger last week’s upset. No. 3 receiver Jerricho Cotchery (7 receptions) was also a factor, with the almost-forgotten veteran recording team-bests of five catches and 96 yards in the New England game, while Edwards came up with season-highs of eight grabs and 100 yards in the Week 15 win over Pittsburgh. Holmes, an ex-Steeler dealt to the Jets back in April, owns four touchdown catches in six career playoff outings and was the MVP of Pittsburgh’s victory in Super Bowl XLIII.

The Steelers excelled on defense throughout the regular season and brought their ‘A’ game into their playoff opener as well, holding Baltimore to a scant 126 total yards and producing three takeaways that were vital to the team’s comeback. Free safety Ryan Clark (90 tackles, 2 INT) had a forced fumble and an interception to lead the charge, and he and the playmaking Polamalu (63 tackles, 1 sack, 7 INT) are the stabilizers of a secondary that’s surrendered a mere 128.8 net passing yards over Pittsburgh’s last five games. The backfield is aided by a potent pass rush that amassed a league-leading 48 sacks prior to the postseason and added six more against the Ravens last week. Outside linebacker James Harrison (100 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 2 INT) had three of the club’s takedowns of Flacco, while counterpart LaMarr Woodley (50 tackles, 10 sacks, 2 INT) owns an eye-popping nine sacks in five career playoff tests. Second-year end Ziggy Hood (20 tackles, 3 sacks), who continues to fill in for injured mainstay Aaron Smith, has also been a factor of late, having delivered a sack in three straight games and contributing to the NFL’s best run-stuffing unit. Smith will sit out once again as he recovers from a torn triceps, while starting cornerback Bryant McFadden (81 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INT) is questionable after exiting last weekend’s win with an abdominal strain.


Pittsburgh’s in good hands at the all-important quarterback position, where Roethlisberger (3200 passing yards, 17 TD, 5 INT) boasts a 9-2 career record as a starter in the playoffs and enters Sunday’s tilt on a personal-best streak of 190 consecutive pass attempts without being intercepted. The two-time Super Bowl winner has a couple of quality complements on a well-balanced Steeler offense in game-breaking wide receiver Mike Wallace (60 receptions, 1257 yards, 10 TD) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (1273 rushing yards, 13 TD, 23 receptions), who powered his way to 99 yards and a touchdown on just 17 carries against the Jets last month. The dangerous Wallace had 102 receiving yards on seven catches in that game and averaged 21 yards per reception during the regular season, the best mark in the AFC. Rookie Emmanuel Sanders added season highs of seven grabs and 78 yards in the first meeting with New York, and the 23-year-old’s late-year emergence has provided Roethlisberger with another solid weapon to a receiving corps that also contains venerable veteran Ward (59 receptions, 5 TD) and Miller (42 receptions, 2 TD). Protecting the quarterback has been an issue at times, as the Steelers permitted 43 sacks over the 16-game schedule and five more in last week’s bout with the Ravens.

After keeping Peyton Manning in check by dropping extra men in coverage in the Wild Card Round, the Jets were able to frustrate the normally in-control Brady by blanketing his primary targets and forcing the star quarterback to either check down or alter his decision-making process. New York generated five sacks, including a pair by longtime end Shaun Ellis (6 tackles, 2 sacks), primarily due to the work of All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis (7 tackles) and fellow defensive backs Antonio Cromartie (3 tackles) and Drew Coleman (6 tackles, 1 sack). Expect Revis, a Pittsburgh native and one of the game’s premier shutdown cover men, to spend a lot of time shadowing Wallace on Sunday in an attempt to neutralize Pittsburgh’s best offensive threat. The Jets can hold their own against opposing ground attacks as well, finishing third in the league versus the run (90.9 ypg) and allowing only 3.6 yards per rush attempt in the regular season. Inside linebackers David Harris (21 tackles, 1 INT) and Bart Scott (5 tackles) possess both outstanding range and instincts as the team’s top two tacklers, and the duo gets ample support from a pair of grinders up front in nose tackle Sione Pouha (8 tackles, 1 sack) and end Mike Devito (7 tackles).


This area was crucial to the outcome of these teams’ first meeting, with Brad Smith putting the Steelers in an early hole by taking the initial kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. It was one of two such scores on the year for the ex- college quarterback, who finished second in the NFL in kick return average (28.6 avg.) and could be a key player again if he’s active on Sunday.

The Jets also have an impact punter in Steve Weatherford (42.6 avg.), who topped the league in kicks place inside both the 20-yard line (42) and 10-yard line (20), noteworthy numbers in a game where field position could be a factor. Kicker Nick Folk was a shaky 30-of-39 on field goal attempts prior to the playoffs and missed a 30-yard try against the Patriots, but did knock home a 32-yarder on the final play in the win over Indianapolis. Cotchery averaged a decent nine yards on punt returns after replacing the injured Jim Leonhard in early December.

Pittsburgh kicker Shaun Suisham did a fine job after supplanting struggling predecessor Jeff Reed at midseason, converting 14-of-15 three-point kicks and going 8-of-9 from beyond 40 yards. The Steelers also made a change at punter during the year, with boomer Daniel Sepulveda (45.5 avg.) sustaining a torn ACL in December and journeyman Jeremy Kapinos filling in. The one-time Jets averaged a modest 41.1 yards per kick, but did sent five of his 14 attempts within the opponent’s 20. Brown (23.4 avg.) had a touchdown as the Steelers’ main kick returner early in the season, but the rookie averaged a lackluster 6.1 yards on punt runbacks.


A strong argument could be made that the Steelers were the better team despite their end result to the Jets last month, as Tomlin’s troops outgained Ryan’s charges by over 100 yards (377-276) and were done in by a kick return touchdown and a safety. Then again, many believed New York was up against it in each of its two previous playoff games, but still managed to survive because of excellent game-planning as well as sheer determination. The Jets do seem to have important advantages both in the trenches, where Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been a crutch at times and New York’s blocking group handled the Steelers’ fierce front seven as well as any team this season, and in special teams. But most importantly, Ryan has this team believing it can win. With a tremendous defense and a proven big-game quarterback in Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh’s not going to make it easy. However, the Jets do seem to match up well here and have been able to meet similarly daunting challenges in the recent past, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t do so again.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 27, Steelers 24


AFC Championship Game, Jets Vs. Packers: News And Notes

The AFC Championship game between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers will kickoff at 6:30 EST (5:30 CST) at Heinz Field

Troy Polamalu will play Sunday, it was announced earlier. Polamalu had been held out of practice until Friday, nursing an Achilles tendon, that kept him sidelined for these two teams earlier meeting, in which the Jets won. Polamalu may be the biggest defensive impact player in the NFL. Starting cornerback Bryant McFadden was also held out of practice until Friday, with an abdominal injury.

7,500 Jets fans turned out to the team’s practice facility in Florham Park N.J. for a rally with the Jets General Manager, the governor of New Jersey, and ‘Fireman Ed’. For four hours. In the freezing cold. In New Jersey.

Those are some real fans.

Keep your eye on SB Nation Chicago, we will be keeping you updated on all the week’s NFL news along with live reports during every game. Add @sbnchicago and @BabylonDon1 to your Twitter account, and be informed of every 2011 playoff update on SB Nation Chicago


AFC Championship, Jets Vs. Steelers: Big Ben's Big Break

There are plenty of Pittsburgh Steelers fans who feel as though the teams biggest opponent this year, wasn't on their schedule. NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell has created more problems for the Black and Gold, and their extremely loyal fan base, than John Harbaugh or Rex Ryan ever could. The league's crusade against 'hard hits' strikes at the heart of Pittsburgh's defensive philosophy, and the make-up of it's physical personnel. They've handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and penalties in 15 yard chunks that would reach nearly all the way to Philadelphia, if they were laid end to end.

And of course, there was the suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger at the beginning of the season. Big Ben was suspended four games for an off-field incident, that called his 'moral fiber' into question. It was the kind of thing that, outraged a lot of people, who were never privvy to all the details. Including Roger Goodell. But he made a great showing of bringing Roethlisberger to some kind some kind of standard of decency hearing, in which he was found wanting. It seemed like a cynical play to the Helen Lovejoys of the world, morally censuring a player who even though there was no concrete evidence, you just know did something distasteful.

You can see how Steelers fans could feel their team has overcome the express wishes of the NFL brass, to play in the AFC Championship game against the New York Jets, Sunday.

But it could be that Roger Goodell did the Steelers a big favor, by sitting Roethlisberger early in the season.

The NFL season is a long one, (not long enough for owners, but that's another story) and the wear and tear on any player begins to show late in the year. The hits, the pressure, the sheer physicality, catches up to a player after 16 weeks.

Look at Mark Sanchez, the quarterback for the Jets. Right now he's playing with a tear in his throwing shoulder. He's still doing very well, but it's an impediment. Every pass, really every snap, has to send a little jolt of pain through his arm. And Roethlisberger takes a lot of hits, more than the majority of other quarterbacks. It takes a toll.

But this year Ben's played 25% less than the majority of quarterbacks. Imagine a marathon runner, who only had to run three-quarters of the race. Or a boxer, replacing one fighter in the fifth round. How much easier is it to go the distance?  

Now, I'm not suggesting the Steelers should be grateful to the NFL or Roger Goodell for their one-man lockout of Roethlisberger. Better to thank Charlie Batch for his workman-like leadership of the offense, in Ben's absence. Definitely that fine(d) defense held up their end.

But as the rest of the Super Bowl hopeful quarterbacks search for whatever they've got left in the tank, Steelers fans can at least think of Goodell and smile...for once.

Keep your eye on SB Nation Chicago, we will be keeping you updated on all the week's NFL news along with live reports during every game. Add @sbnchicago and @BabylonDon1 to your Twitter account, and be informed of every 2011 playoff update on SB Nation Chicago


AFC Championship Game, New York Jets Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Smell Of Victory

"The road to easy street goes through the sewer" - John Madden

John Madden knew what he was talking about. There was a time, before Monday Night Football, before the aerophobia and the distracting man-crush on Brett Favre, when Madden was the young head coach of the Oakland Raiders. That team never had a losing season under Madden, and they were not afraid to travel the sewers to get to the post-season.

The New York Jets will meet the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday (6:30 EST, 5:30 CST) for the AFC Championship and a Super Bowl berth, and whoever the eventual winner is won't be leaving Heinz Field with a clean uniform.

Rex Ryan is something of a modern day John Madden; he's certainly charged his Jets team with the "Just Win, Baby" spirit of the Raiders of the 70's. Ryan comes across as sort of goofy, he looks a little like Mr. Haney from Green Acres, a glib, disheveled huckster, part snake-oil salesman, part hayseed.

But Ryan's no rube, and he's fresh off a victory against Bill Belichick, one of the most inventive minds in the game. And he wasn't afraid to splash around in the sewers a little to do it. A steady stream of taunting during the week leading up to the game, a Jets defender on the ground halting play every time the Patriots got rolling. Ryan definitely cares more about winning than what he gets on his shoes on the way.

He used those tactics, plus a whopping 11 defensive backs active on his game-day roster, to defeat the New England Patriots. But none of that will work against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mike Tomlin, the Steelers head coach, doesn't engage in a lot of extraneous pregame back and forth. He and his team are almost all bite, and no bark. They may snarl some if they're left on the chain too long, though. They've won this season the way they always win, coming in swinging and being the last guy still standing.

The Steelers are built to outlast you, to be tougher than you are, to hit harder. I wouldn't call them dirty, but the league surely seems to think so, with the number of penalties and fines they've been given over the course of the season. The Steelers have succeeded this season despite the blizzard of yellow flags they've seen, as the NFL attempts to force defenses to play with more finesse, and less physical force.

The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to have adjusted by absorbing those penalties, as the cost of doing business.

The New York Jets have been a defensive force this season as well. But they're built for the fast track, with speedy linebackers and secondary being everywhere in coverage; that's how they defeated Peyton Manning's Colts, and Brady's Patriots -- playing fast off the ball on offense.

They will have to scheme much differently for the Steelers than they did for their first two playoff games. Pittsburgh's Heinz Field is, almost literally, the trenches. The playing surface there is second only to Chicago's Soldier Field in complaints voiced about its poor quality. The footing isn't ideal for a track meet. You can't sprint over it in sneakers; you have to dig in with cleats.

Ryan and the Jets know this well, because they beat the Steelers in Heinz Field just a month ago, 22-17. The difference in the game was a 15-yard penalty and a Brad Smith 97 yard kick return. The Steelers probably won't let Smith get free this time.

Rex Ryan isn't trying to get into Ben Roethlisberger's head, like he did with Tom Brady. He's not using the week to try to bait Mike Tomlin into committing mistakes. The tone (so far) has been mutual respect. Last week he talked the talk, this week he and the Jets have to walk the walk.

And you know the path they'll have to take isn't going to smell like a garden stroll.

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