Landry: Jets' D better than Steelers'

Updated: September 13, 2012, 9:07 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets' defensive goal is to reclaim the No. 1 ranking, which they held in 2009. On Sunday, they intend to take down the reigning defensive champs, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Safety LaRon Landry, who already has made an impact on the field with his hard-hitting style, delivered a verbal blow Wednesday, claiming the Jets have better personnel than the Steelers. He expects their superiority to show up at Heinz Field, where the home folks are accustomed to seeing fantastic defense.

"We can be as great as we want to be," Landry said. "I'm not about to turn it into a controversy, but I think we can win over them. I think we have all the pieces that they have, even better. To answer your question, I think we'll pull it off.

"If you look at the starter at each position ... I like the matchup. I choose my guys over any of their guys, especially in our defensive scheme."

It's like old times, as the Jets' bluster is starting to return. Rex Ryan, who last month proclaimed himself "the best defensive coach in the league," already is on record as saying this could be the best defense he's had in four seasons. Several players have backed him up.

"There's just a swagger and confidence on this defense," defensive tackle Mike DeVito said. "We know we can be the best."

The Jets and Steelers are among the elite defensive teams in the league. From 2009-11, the Jets ranked first, third and fifth in total defense, respectively. The Steelers finished fifth, second and first, respectively. They have what the Jets want -- the top spot.

Landry went so far as to say, even though the No. 1 focus this week is Ben Roethlisberger & Co., he also wants to outplay the Steelers' defense.

"It's going to be a tough game, going up against their offense, but also statistically, winning each category, comparing defense to defense, I'm looking forward to that challenge, too," he said. "(I want) to win every category and outbeat their defense. Seriously."

The Jets' previously dormant offense stole the headlines in the 48-28 win over the Buffalo Bills, but the defense served as the catalyst. Early interceptions by Darrelle Revis and Kyle Wilson resulted in terrific field position, setting up the first two touchdowns.

They got sloppy late in the game, allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns when the outcome was secure, but that didn't put a dent in their confidence.

"I feel like we have no weaknesses at any position on defense," linebacker David Harris said.

That old conviction is back, and a big reason is the new look at safety -- Landry and Yeremiah Bell, easily the most physical tandem they've had under Ryan. The Jets acquired them in free agency, signing them to one-year contracts, hoping to add more pop to a unit that had become somewhat stale.

Landry and Bell are "like predators back there," DeVito said. "They're flying all over the place. They're violent. That's intimidating for the other team. I'd hate to be on the other side of the ball, with those guys flying around.

Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who played with the Jets from 2004-10, said the biggest difference in the current defense and previous versions is Landry stalking the middle of the field.

"He's a physical presence," Cotchery said. "You have to find him, and it's been awhile (since I've seen that on the Jets)."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin agreed, saying Landry "brings an awesome demeanor to their defense ... I think personalities like his, from a football standpoint, bleed over to others. I think it's an inspiring thing."

The Steelers are synonymous with defense, dating to the iconic era of the Steel Curtain in the 1970s. The current unit underwent changes in the offense, but it still has three players with multiple Pro Bowl appearances -- safety Troy Polamalu, nose tackle Casey Hamton and linebacker James Harrison, who may return this week from a lingering knee injury.

By comparison, the Jets have only one Pro Bowl player -- cornerback Revis, whose status this week is uncertain because of a concussion.

The Steelers' defense is run by the legendary Dick LeBeau, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Jets don't have any Hall of Famers in the building, but Ryan made headlines in training camp by proclaiming himself the best of the best.

"I've stolen a lot of things from (LeBeau)," Ryan said. "He borrowed from us, but he doesn't admit it."

There's one thing he'd like to steal -- LeBeau's No. 1 ranking.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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