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If Steelers win, Terrible Towel drapes New York landmark
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Friday what the terms of their wager for the AFC championship game Sunday will be.
If the Steelers win, Bloomberg will hang a Terrible Towel on an unspecified New York landmark.
If the Jets win, Ravenstahl will hang a Jets firefighter hat on an unspecified Pittsburgh landmark.
Video of the losing mayor's humiliation will be posted on YouTube.
The mayors also will assemble care packages for armed services members who are from the winning city and recently returned home. The losing mayor will wear the opposing team's jersey during the project.
Bloomberg, in a reference to previous victories, said:
"Peyton, down. Brady, down. Big Ben is next. I have a shiny, new number six Jets jersey picked out and ready for Mayor Ravenstahl."
So what is it about the Steelers, you're left to wonder, that makes them impervious to the run-and-shoot-off-your-mouth offense? It isn't because the Steelers don't have any sensitive targets, but they are a little short right now on players who say ridiculous things, tweet moronic tweets or traffic in preposterous predictions.
They had a guy like that, but they traded him to the Jets.
So speaking of Santonio Holmes, it has surfaced again this week that 'Tone fully intends to deploy his vast understanding of the Pittsburgh defense to the advantage of Mark Sanchez and the Jets' flight plan. Because he said so.
"I do think that's credible," Tomlin said with a straight face to that specific question Tuesday. "I think he used that knowledge last time."
I find that not so credible, for some reason. I think that anyone who showed up for an 8 o'clock class on Professor Holmes' lecture on the intricacies of the Dick LeBeau defense could count on being out there by 8:15. I'm not sure 'Tone knew all that much about the offense when he was here, but he's great at catching the football in difficult spots. It wouldn't be the biggest surprise since last week if Santonio Holmes wound up in his second Super Bowl in three years after Sunday, but I doubt that when Kevin Colbert sent him to New York in April for a fifth-round pick, Tomlin and members of the defensive staff stormed Colbert's office yelling, "Don't do it Kevin! He knows too much!"
If 'Tone knew anything before the Dec. 19 meeting, it wasn't anything that allowed Sanchez to pass for even 175 yards, or allowed Santonio himself to gain more than 40 on six catches.
But if Wednesday turns into the Thursday and Thursday into Friday without somebody in one of these locker rooms flipping something flammable, that will create an almost eerie backdrop for the biggest game around here in two years.
Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Bart Scott, 'Tone -- somebody say somethin' before it's too late.
Do I have to get Anthony Smith back here to guarantee a victory?
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New York Jets coach Rex Ryan called blitzes against Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning 63 percent of the time in an AFC Championship Game loss last year. During the Jets' playoff rematch two weeks ago, he called for his defense to blitz 15 percent of the time. The Jets won.
In the New England Patriots' 45-3 shellacking of the Jets in early December, Ryan called 22 blitzes, and Tom Brady responded by throwing three touchdowns. Last week the Jets scaled back to 16 blitzes, and Brady was ineffective, throwing for only 91 yards when the Jets sent extra rushers in a 28-21 New York victory.
The Jets typically employ an all-out attack and use man-to-man coverage with cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Limiting blitzes and playing coverage underneath is a different philosophy, one that might not be replicated a third time this postseason when the Jets face the Steelers at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field.
"He is a lot different than Manning and Brady," Steelers receiver Hines Ward said of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "When the protection breaks down is when he is at his best. He makes plays out of the pocket, but he can also stand in there and make throws."
Roethlisberger's style might make it difficult for the Jets to sit back and play coverage underneath. But the Jets also will have to be careful sending multiple blitzes at the elusive Roethlisberger, who has a habit of eluding the rush and making plays downfield.
"Everybody has their own certain way of beating the blitz," veteran backup quarterback Byron Leftwich said. "He has his way of beating it, and it works."
The Jets realized as much during their Dec. 19 meeting against the Steelers and adapted — and won.
Despite blitzing nearly every team they had played to that point, the Jets brought five or more rushers only 18 of the 49 times Roethlisberger dropped back to pass.
Still, he had success both ways. Roethlisberger threw for 100 yards when the Jets blitzed and for 164 and a touchdown when they didn't.
For appearances sake, it looks like a mismatch of major proportions. New York Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson is 6 feet 6, 310 pounds and a former No. 4 overall draft pick, while Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison is a 6-foot, 242-pound seventh-year veteran who was undrafted out of Kent State.
But Harrison is a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and one of its top pass rushers, while Ferguson was labeled a disappointment after allowing 23-plus sacks his first two seasons before being named to his first Pro Bowl this year. When they met Dec. 19, Harrison had 10 tackles (seven solo), including one for a loss, and recorded one quarterback hit.
Forced fumbles: 6
Steelers special teams captain Keyaron Fox has a message for those worried about the Jets' Brad Smith returning an opening kickoff for a touchdown.
"It won't happen again," he said.
Special teams coach Al Everest said this to those who think back a decade ago when New England scored a pair of special teams touchdowns in stunning the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game: "The bottom line is that you can't go forward looking back."
Neither Everest nor any Steelers special teamer plans to dwell on Smith's opening kickoff return at Heinz Field a month ago or even Lardarius Webb's punt return that set up the tying points late during last week's divisional playoff game against Baltimore.
"We will do the best that we can to help us win this game," Everest said. "We know what we did wrong (against the Jets), and now we have to get ready for the game Sunday night and go get it right."
Everest has done a pretty good job of getting it right since replacing Bob Ligashesky this season, a year after the Steelers allowed four kickoff returns for touchdowns in five games.
With veteran free agents like Arnaz Battle, Will Allen and Larry Foote, the Steelers' kickoff unit finished fifth in the NFL this season, allowing 20 yards per kick. Its only hiccup came against the Jets.
It's incomprehensible that Revis won't be staring at Wallace from across the line of scrimmage. Why isn't the league's top cover corner being assigned to stop the Steelers' top receiving threat in the biggest game of the year?
"I don't know why he didn't cover me (the first time),'' said Wallace, who was targeted 10 times in the first meeting against the Jets. "I think Cromartie's a really good player himself. I had to worry about him the whole game. It really doesn't matter. It's going to be a long day for whoever checks me.''
It will be interesting to see if Revis gets the opportunity to make Wallace eat those words. That's how reputations are made — great players achieving greatness in big games. But it doesn't appear that Revis will get the chance.
Is it because Wallace had a big game against the Jets the first time, and that Revis was coming back from a hamstring injury and didn't think he could keep up with Wallace, among the fastest players in the league? Is it because Revis is again experiencing hamstring issues (he was limited at Friday's final practice) that resulted from him missing training camp during a 35-day contract holdout?
Revis can be sensitive to what he believes is unfair criticism of his play. When New England's Randy Moss burned him for a touchdown catch in the second game of the season, Revis indicated his hamstring was bothering him.
Taylor, who routinely faces the opponents' top receiver, will be responsible for trying to stop former teammate Santonio Holmes. Taylor said it's standard operating procedure for the top corner to cover the top receiver.
"Whoever they feel is their No. 1 guy, I want to be on that guy,'' said Taylor, who held Baltimore 's Derrick Mason without a catch last week. "Regardless of who he is.''
The greater the player, the greater the challenge.
In his biggest challenge to date, Revis apparently won't receive the coveted assignment of trying to stop the Steelers' most dangerous receiver.
So what's wrong with this picture? Clearly, Revis' credentials indicate he's up for the challenge.
"I think there's been a slow transition over the last few years," said Mark DeVito, 37, a physician from Red Bank, N.J.
Hmm, isn't that pretty much the definition of band wagon jumping? Of course, it's conveniently easy when you have more than one team to choose from in your locale; makes geographic finger-pointing impossible.
Then again, this is serious. The Jets are the hot topic on the local TV news and radio talk shows. Menus have been adjusted, even in Manhattan, which is seen as "Giants country." At Gallagher's Steak House, you can order a "Go Gang Green Power Lunch," which includes such entrees as the "Mark Sanchez Grilled Salmon Fillet" and the "Braylon Edwards Beef Tenderloin."
"People are prouder than they used to be," said Turnoff, 34, an IT consultant who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. "It used to be just a Giants city. Now it's more on a par."
Jets country includes places like the borough of Queens, where the team played at Shea Stadium long ago. "Everyone's excited, kind of like, 'I can't believe it,'" said Larry Scheiber, 56, of the Far Rockaway neighborhood.
But, he added, "there's a greater preponderance of Giants fans. Jets fans have had kind of a chip on the shoulder."
Wow, Jets fans have had a chip on their shoulder? Thanks for that insight, I would have never guessed.
Born into the fledgling NFL in 1925, the Giants had 35 years to establish their tradition and importance before the Jets even came along in 1960. Even then they were mostly a joke, a disorganized, cash-poor franchise called the Titans that played in the newly created AFL, which no one took seriously at first. The team changed owners and its name in 1963 and moved to brand new Shea the next year. Then Namath arrived, and suddenly the Jets had credibility.
Now middle-aged, the Jets still are regarded by many as the Giants' younger sibling. From 1976 until moving into the billion-dollar New Meadowlands Stadium in 2009, the Jets played home games in Giants Stadium. The teams still share a building in East Rutherford, N.J., but at least it is non-nickname specific.
Calling the Jets the "kings of the little brothers" among the local teams, New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro on Wednesday wrote, "The Giants still may own the deed to the city's football soul. But the Jets have left their fellow little brothers behind. And are gaining on the outside."
Perhaps. Will be interesting to see the dynamics should they win; it will be sadly predictable if they don't.
The last time the Steelers met the New York Jets in the playoffs, on Jan. 15, 2005, the game hinged on the kickers' toes.
Jeff Reed's worked. Doug Brien's did not.
Brien missed 47- and 43-yard field-goal attempts in the final 2 minutes, 2 seconds of an AFC divisional playoff game, giving Reed a chance to claim a 20-17 victory for the Steelers with a 33-yarder in overtime, his second of the game.
The Jets now have Nick Folk, who beat Indianapolis, 17-16, with a 32-yarder in the wild-card round. He missed from 30 last week against New England.
The Steelers are counting on Shaun Suisham, who was signed Nov. 16 to replace Reed. Suisham has missed only twice in 17 attempts, but Washington cut him last season after he missed a 23-yarder late in a near upset of New Orleans. Picked up by Dallas, he was 1 of 3 in his first career playoff game.
LaDainian Tomlinson belongs to a select club, and he desperately wants out. The New York Jets running back is among several big-name, Hall of Fame-caliber athletes — the list starts with Dan Marino, Karl Malone and Ken Griffey Jr. — who never won the big one.
Tomlinson has never even played in the big one.
Tomlinson, who has shown no signs of calling it a career, has come this close once before, three years ago with San Diego. The Chargers played New England on the road, and after two carries and one reception, Tomlinson left the game with a knee injury. The Chargers lost, 21-12.
"It was difficult," he said. "Just bad timing. ... It's a tough thing that sticks with you through the offseason."
Anyone lacking a rooting interest Sunday might want to look toward the player known as L.T. He is considered one of the NFL's good guys, a straight-arrow, model citizen off the field and a locker room leader.
The way some are telling it, the young gunslinger, Kid Sanchez, stared down and outdrew those notorious outlaws, Mad Dog Manning and Terrible Tom. The next villain standing is the remaining obstacle in the path to peace, justice and the New York Jets' first Super Bowl appearance in 42 years.
The showdown: The Kid vs. Big Ben, Heinz Field, Sunday, high noon. Check that, 6:30 p.m., actually. No matter. It's the Gunfight at the Allegheny Corral, the Steeltown Shootout, the ...
The fact also remains that the wins are not his alone, that he should more accurately be considered the quarterback of record but not the primary reason for the Jets' success. In two games this postseason Sanchez has played poorly at times, better at others. He has completed several big passes, kept his poise and continues to earn his teammates' trust.
He also is getting a lot of help from his coaches, offensive line, receivers and a stout defense.
The AFC Championship Game between the Steelers and Jets promises to be a defensive showdown, as both rank among the best in the league.
The Steelers have the NFL's top defense against the run (62.8 yards a game) and scoring (14.5 points a game) and rank second in total yards (276.8), while the Jets allow 19 points a game, 90.9 rushing yards and 291.5 total yards.
1. Ben Roethlisberger — Not only is he 9-2 in playoff games and 2-1 in AFC Championship games, but Big Ben's poise in the pocket prepares him for fourth-quarter comebacks and allows him to overcome an injury-riddled offensive line.
2. Heath Miller — Missed 22-17 loss to Jets in December, when backup tight end Matt Spaeth dropped two passes in end zone. Miller is Roethlisberger's "safety valve," especially on third-and-long situations.
3. Lawrence Timmons — Inside linebacker led the Steelers in tackles (135) this season and has three sacks and two forced fumbles, but it's his ability in pass coverage (nine passes defended, two interceptions) that will be the key.
THREE REASONS WHY the Steelers will Lose
1. Rex Ryan — Ryan boldly predicted a Super Bowl season, and has the Jets on the brink for the second consecutive season. He outsmarted Bill Belichick in beating the Patriots, and could have a surprising game plan to stop the Steelers.
2. Jets grounded — The Steelers allow a league-least 62.8 rushing yards a game, and can't afford to let LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to continue their combined 135-yard average in the playoffs.
3. David Harris — No one talks about the Jets linebackers, but the Jets' MVP leads all NFL players in tackles with 21 and an interception this postseason. Harris could play a pivotal role in stopping Mendenhall and protecting midfield.
I don't think the Jets will win (granted I said that last week). The Steelers need to prove themselves from their last loss to the Jets, and the Jets are acting scared all week. Unlike last week when it seemed they had a lot more confidence and had mistakes to fix. The Jets will come in on their heels and Pittsburgh should take advantage.
As far as the game, Wallace vs Revis will be interesting. There's no way Cro will matchup well with Wallace.
Pitts DL is weakened so it will be interesting to see if they can stop the Jets run game.
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