Friday, January 21, 2011

Steelers Game Day: AFC Championship vs. New York Jets

Another AFC Championshop game at Heinz Field. Ho hum. The Steelers are looking for their third trip to the Super Bowl in the last six year. Absolutely amazing. Some are going to look at the Steelers success in their previous Super Bowls and say something to the affect of “Well they didn’t have to play New England in any of those runs.” Who cares. When they start taking away Super Bowl trophies and playoffs wins away because they didn’t play the right number of teams I will worry about it. This game is about who is the best in the AFC. Throughout the season the Steelers and Jets were widely regarded as two of the best teams in the AFC, so how fitting is it that they will meet in the AFC Championship game.

Yes, I know the Jets came in here and played a game earlier this year. I was there. I was at the open end zone when the ball went through Matt Spaeth’s hands as time expired and Santonio Holmes ran to midfield and did a bow in each direction of the fans. I listened to the Jets fans behind me do their stupid Jets chant. I stayed and watched every Steelers player walk off the field. I wanted the Jets again. Too many bad things happened. An opening kickoff for a touchdown. Giving up 100 yards rushing to the Jets. Giving up a late game safety in the shadow of their own end zone. One of those things might happen during the course of a game, not all three at the same time. Not for this team. Not this time.

The Steelers were wildly conservative with All-World safety Troy Polamalu out of the lineup, resting an injury and only sacked Mark Sanchez one time. This from a team that led the entire NFL in sacks with 48 during the regular season. Heath Miller was out of the lineup. Matt Spaeth dropped a couple of HUGE passes, and while he blocked pretty well, just doesn’t give you that vertical threat that Miller does.

A week is a long time to wait. After the game on Sunday between the Jets and Patriots there was going to be a one week wait until the AFC Championship game on Sunday. That time has taken forever, but the time is near. Hey, think of the wait like this, we could be the Baltimore Ravens. Have fun golfing, jokes.

It is no lie that to get to the Super Bowl going through New England wasn’t ideal. The Jets took care of that by harassing and getting all over Tom Brady in an upset win. That meant that Heinz Field will host another AFC Championship game. There is no place like home.

The Jets are coming into Pittsburgh for the second time this season after a week 15 win. The last time there was this kind of scenario where it didn’t deal with a division opponent coming into Heinz Field for a second time in the playoffs was in 2007 when the Jacksonville Jaguars won twice in Heinz Field. That was the first and only time that it has happened in the history of the Steelers.

History has nothing to do with it. It comes down to who isn’t going to turn the football over. That is all it’s about. Who wants it more. The Steelers come in playing some good football and the Jets come in after beating the Colts and the Patriots. Can’t get much better than that.

Here is the stats for the game:

Pittsburgh 31, Baltimore 24
Passing: Roethlisberger: 19/32, 226 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Mendenhall: 20 car, 46 yards, 2 TD
Receiving: Brown: 3 rec, 75 yards, 0 TD

New York 28, New England 21
Passing: Sanchez: 16/25, 194 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Greene: 17 car, 76 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Cotchery: 5 rec, 96 yards, 0 TD

Offense (rank in NFL)

Total Offense
Pittsburgh: 345.3 yards/game (14th)
New York: 351.0 yards/game (11th)

Pittsburgh: 225.1 yards/game (14th)
New York: 202.6 yards/game (22nd)

Pittsburgh: 120.3 yards/game (11th)
New York: 148.4 yards/game (4th)

Pittsburgh: 23.4 points/game (12th)
New York: 22.9 points/game (13th)


Total Defense
Pittsburgh: 276.8 yards/game (2nd)
New York: 291.5 yards/game (3rd)

Pittsburgh: 62.8 yards/game (1st)
New York: 90.9 yards/game (3rd)

Pittsburgh: 214.1 yards/game (12th)
New York: 200.6 yards/game (6th)

Pittsburgh: 14.5 points/game (1st)
New York: 19.0 points/game (6th)
Lets take a look at the New York Jets.

Hit the jump  for the rest of the preview.

Mark Sanchez leads this team onto the field. I know people are going head over heals with how Sanchez because is the prototypical average quarterback. Of the four quarterbacks that are left in the playoff field Sanchez is the worst.

Sure someone will blabber out the stats that Sanchez has a 4-1 playoff record, and that is correct, and actually he has played well with a 7/3 TD to interception ratio and a 7.48 YPA average, but much like Joe Flacco couldn’t get over that AFC Championship game hump last year in his rookie season. Again Sanchez will have to go on the road, in a hostile environment to try and win a big football game.

While Sanchez has been solid is his short playoff career outside of the three touchdown day against a pedestrian New England secondary he only has thrown an average of one touchdown in his other four postseason games. He has only thrown for over 200 yards one time and has completed over 60% of his passes twice.

Over the course of the season Sanchez has not quite been able to attain much of anything. I am not sure if this is from being held back by the coaching staff or him just being a bad quarterback, but Sanchez completed less than 58% of his passes and had a TD/INT ratio of 17/13. He threw for 3,291 yards. To put that in perspective Ben Roethlisberger threw for 3,200 yards, in three less games. Sanchez also has a mediocre 6.49 YPA and had only six games where he threw for more than 250 yards and only five games where he threw multiple touchdown passes. To put that in even more perspective Sanchez went six games without throwing a touchdown pass. In the regular season. Wow.

You know what is bad? When you throw a bottle of pop better than you have ever thrown a football.

Still had to make the Pepsi guy dive for it, you joke.

You know who else is hungry? James Harrison. You were warned.

Also you are not going to be playing in SoCal Mark. This is Pittsburgh, in January. It gets cold.

Bring your parka Mark.

It’s ok LT. I would cry too if I had to face this run defense for a second time this season. Brett Favre already filed his retirement papers so if you want to get that stuff in today, I mean it might be a good idea for you.

LT has, despite his age, played pretty well this season for 914 yards and a 4.2 yard per carry average. His play, however, tailed off over the end of the season. From weeks 11 till the end of the season Tomlinson never gained over 50 yards in a game despite getting over 10 carries in each of those games.

Moreover, his playoffs have been even less than inspiring. LT has played in nine post season game and only rushed for 452 yards. Just over 50 yards a game. For as good as LT used to be out of the backfield he has only 176 total receiving yards in said nine games.

Looks like the gas tank is on empty.

Shonn Greene shares carries. Greene has been about as average as Tomlinson this season. He had one 100 yard game, like Tomlinson, in the same game. Other than that, average.

While Greene and Tomlinson may put up average numbers together they put together a pretty good game. The new fad of the NFL is having a two back system. Ideally Rex wants to get both of the ball carries anywhere between 15-20 touches each and if they can each get around 70 yards or so then the Jets are going to be ok.

Neither back really is much of a threat out of the backfield so that will be something that will be a little bit different than Ray Rice with Baltimore. Rice caught a team-high seven balls last week but that will not be the same this week. Sanchez is dink and dunk but rarely looks at his backs. Greene has had three receptions in a game twice and Tomlinson hasn’t caught more than two balls in a game since week 11.

Braylon Edwards is this teams leading receiver.

No idea how.

Edwards had like 900 yards or so during the regular season. He did so with only one 100 yard game and that was actually against the Steelers when he caught eight balls for exactly 100 yards. So far this post season Edwards has only caught six balls in two games for 114 yards and a single touchdown. He might get the chance to catch a couple of balls since Ike will probably match up on Tone. Whatever, Edwards sucks.

Tone comes back to Pittsburgh, for the second time this season. As I mentioned before Holmes made it personal the first time back. He caught six balls for only 40 yards but was basically rendered a nonfactor.

I don’t expect Tone to have a big game, mainly because

[Thanks to Cotter for sharing]

Despite possibly being blanketed by Ike there is still a distinct possibility that if the Jets need a big play in the passing game that Mark Sanchez will be keying on Santonio Holmes. Holmes has made big plays over his career and he made another one last week.

Listen, I love Tone to death. I liked him when he was with the team and I still have love for him even though he is with the Jets. That being said I hope he doesn’t catch a single ball and Ike Taylor puts him on his back.

Dustin Keller will be the X-factor for the Jets in this game. Keller has been Sanchez’s favorite target this season catching a team-high 55 passes for 687 yards and five touchdowns. What might be a little different is that the Steelers have the personal to match up with Keller down the field and in the middle. The athletic linebackers such as Timmons, Woodley and Harrison coupled with Clark and Polamalu should be able to keep Keller in check, much like they did the first time around when they held Keller to three catches for 19 yards.

The Jets offensive line has been pretty good all year. Much of their success that they have had in the running game is due to the offensive line paving the way for the running back duo that the Jets have.

It all starts with center Nick Mangold. One of the best centers in the business so it will be the job of Casey Hampton to make him a nonfactor in the football game.

The left side of the Jets offensive line is pretty strong, which is anchored by D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Dude is an absolute house at 6-6 310 pounds in his fifth year.

The weak spot of the line is probably the right side tackle, Wayne Hunter. His first game was in week 15 against the Steelers and did a pretty decent job. The bad part for Hunter is that he is going against LaMarr Woodley and it is the playoffs. LaMarr takes the playoffs pretty serious and said that he is hungry for some Sanchez sandwiches. I think he will be ok.

The Jets only gave up one sack in the week 15 meeting and that was one of the only games I can remember where the Steelers did not get a ton of pass rush. I can see the Steelers and Dick LeBeau coming up with some new wrinkles and packages to confuse the Jets offense and namely Mark Sanchez.

Strangely enough the Jets defense doesn’t boast a single player that has 100 tackles during the regular season. In comparison the Steelers posted three players (Timmons, Farrior, Harrison) all with 100 tackles or more.

Shaun Ellis will be a big part of the Jets success and/or failure in the game. Although Rashard Mendenhall had a solid game in the last meeting I can’t imagine if he runs for 5+ yards a carry this time around that the Steelers lose the football game. Shaun Ellis is a huge part of stopping the run and it will be on Pouncey and the guards to keep him out the backfield.

The linebackers are pretty average if you ask me. I am not sure if there is anyone more full of themselves than Bart Scott. His post game tirade after the New England game was overblown and his play on the field has been average at best. Bart Scott made one good play in his whole career and that so happened to be almost killing Ben Roethlisberger. Other than that if you would have told me that Bart Scott played against the Patriots I would have been shocked and yes I watched the whole game.

David Harris has contributed a team-high 99 tackles and three sacks and Bryan Thomas leads the team with six sacks and fellow backer Calvin Pace has 5.5 sacks. So between the four starting linebackers they combine for 15.5 sacks this season. Meh.

Jason Taylor is on the back end of his career but he can still make a play or two if given the opportunity. He was the one that jumped the play after he was tipped off to the play when the Jets scored the safety in week 15. Taylor has also racked up five sacks. That is much better than my dad can do, and they are probably the same age. I think. Whatev.

The Jets secondary is good/ Darrelle Revis is a Pitt guy and he is as good as it gets on the corner. Not too much else to say about him. I can’t wait to see Mike Wallace eat his lunch. Speed kills.

Antonio Cromartie

Haha, what a clown. Good luck trying to cover whoever it is you’re going to cover. Clutch and grab was out of the NHL a while ago. It didn’t move to the NFL so lets try and work on that. Joke.

Eric Smith is back and playing at the strong safety spot and Brodney Pool plays the free. Nothing too impressive there. Heath Miller should be money. Kyle Wilson is the nickel back. Good luck with that.

General Thoughts:

-This should be a pretty interesting atmosphere at Heinz Field. Against the Ravens that place was rocking more than I have ever seen it and it is understandable why. It was the Ravens and there was that rivalry feel to the game. I don’t really get that with the Jets. It just doesn’t seem like we have enough history with them, but this is to go to the Super Bowl. I would expect the buzz to be just as good as it was last week. It doesn’t hurt that Wiz Khalifa will be playing Black and Yellow during pregame followed by a tribute to Steelers Nation. Oh man that is going to be amazing.

-The Steelers must come out and jump on the Jets. Offensively the Jets are not going to overwhelm you but if you let them hang around and have a chance they are capable of winning the football game. If the Steelers can strike early and possibly get up 10 in the first half then it is going to lend very well in terms of winning. I know you think that if you are up by 10 then yea you are in a good chance to win. While that is true there is a difference in being up by 10 on the Jets and up by 10 on the Patriots. The Jets are a running football team and they like to throw the underneath pass. If you make them stretch the field with the football they are going to struggle so getting that early lead should lend itself to a victory.

-For all the talk about the offense and defense, the specials teams are going to be huge in how this game flows. The last meeting Brad Smith took the opening kickoff back to the house before anyone even sat down. You never want to get down seven before either offense steps foot on the field.

Ugh. That makes me want to throw up. Smith has been banged up but Cromartie has had some big returns for this team so it will be very important, even more than usual, for the punt and kick coverage teams to keep in their lanes.

-Getting some sort of running game is going to be key for the Steelers. The Jets were very successful against the Patriots because they kept them in second/third and long and could bring in their nickel and dime packages and really blanket the receivers and give the pass rushers some time to get to the quarterback. Last time against the Jets Rashard Mendenhall rushed for well over five yards per carry and that will be instrumental in opening up the play action pass and pulling those safeties closer to the line of scrimmage so they can go up top to the Young Money crew.

Enough about this. I have been waiting for this shit all week.

Prediction: I like the home team here. Steelers 27, Jets 16.

Hit it.

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