Sunday, January 16, 2011
Quick Take: Jets at Steelers
By Tim Graham
Three things to know about next Sunday's New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers AFC Championship Game:
1. The Jets already have won at Heinz Field this season. The Jets rebounded from humiliating back-to-back losses (45-3 to the New England Patriots and at home against the Miami Dolphins) by going into Pittsburgh and beating the eventual AFC North champs in Week 15. But it wasn't a textbook victory. Brad Smith returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, and Jason Taylor recorded a safety in the fourth quarter that forced the Steelers to go for a touchdown on their final drive rather than kick a field goal. The Steelers made it to the Jets' 10-yard line and had two shots at the end zone before time expired in a thriller.
2. The Jets know they can beat anybody when they come to play. The Jets not only return to a venue they've already conquered, but they also have won consecutive games against future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. For the second year under Rex Ryan, the Jets won two road playoff games and advanced to the AFC Championship Game. Last year, though, they knocked off the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers with the help of some missed field goals. This year's run has been more impressive. The Jets are back after slaying Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in two of the toughest stadiums for a visitor to escape triumphant -- in any sport. Now they'll have to knock off another championship quarterback to reach the Super Bowl.
3. That said, the Steelers didn't have safety Troy Polamalu in that game. The perennial defensive player of the year candidate didn't play particularly well in Saturday's victory over the Baltimore Ravens, but you can't count on him to miss many tackles two weeks in a row. Polamalu is a game-changer for the Steelers and may be the league's ultimate defensive force. His teammates voted him the team MVP for good reason. He had 63 tackles, a sack, seven interceptions, 11 passes defensed and a forced fumble in 14 games.