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Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Jets wisely tone down rhetoric for Steelers

By Tim Graham

For two weeks, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan declared war on the opponent.

He proclaimed the wild-card playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts was personal. He announced this past Sunday's trilogy with the New England Patriots was personal. He challenged Bill Belichick, took shots at Tom Brady, accused the Patriots of rubbing it in the previous time they played.

Ben Roethlisberger
The Jets paid Ben Roethlisberger plenty of compliments when talking about the Pittsburgh quarterback on Monday.
But when it came to talk about facing the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC title Sunday night, the Jets' psychological warfare was rooted in killing them with kindness.

Rather than throw grenades, the Jets are tossing bouquets.

They respect Mike Tomlin. They won't call Ben Roethlisberger any names. They praised Troy Polamalu and James Harrison.

Have the Jets gone soft after matching last season's feat of back-to-back road victories over division champions to reach the AFC Championship Game?

Hardly. There's a difference when it comes to prepping for their next game: The Jets aren't necessarily the underdogs.

The Jets don't need to invent reasons to hate an opponent. They defeated the Steelers in Week 15. The Jets held on to win 22-17, with the Steelers reaching their 10-yard line in the closing seconds and failing to score with two cracks at the end zone.

The Jets are wise to let any Steelers doubt from that game fester on its own rather than getting the Steelers unnecessarily irritated.

Plenty of ammunition is available if the Jets were inclined. Ryan and a few of his players, namely venomous linebacker Bart Scott, have long histories against the Steelers from their days with the Baltimore Ravens. Roethlisberger had a controversial offseason -- if the Jets wanted to go there.

Unlike the Colts or Patriots games, the Jets don't have conversations to avoid. Their recent trash talk helped divert the spotlight from last year's AFC Championship loss in Indianapolis and that Week 13 beatdown at New England.

Reporters didn't spend much time hammering Mark Sanchez and his teammates about his three interceptions and 27.8 passer rating the last time he was in Gillette Stadium.

But there's no harm in revisiting the Jets' last trip to Pittsburgh. The Jets will gladly chat about that all week. Sanchez was efficient. They rushed for 106 yards, 44 over the Steelers' league-leading average. The Jets' defense was great. They scored a special-teams touchdown.

Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie inflamed last week's pregame festivities when he called Brady an "ass----." Ryan added his own criticisms of Brady, accusing the MVP favorite of taunting.

Cromartie and Ryan expressed nothing but admiration for Roethlisberger on Monday.

"He's tough, everything you look for, a competitor," Ryan said. "He's anybody's kind of quarterback. Anybody would love to have that."

Jets defensive lineman Trevor Pryce said it's an "honor and a privilege to play against [Roethlisberger], it really is."

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was asked if he had a message he wanted to send to Roethlisberger.

"We'll see you on Sunday," Revis replied. "Ya'll guys know me. I don't get into that, 'You're an a-hole' and all that stuff. I don't do that. I respect guys, and I know he's a great quarterback, and I can't wait to play against him."