When the New York Jets (13-5) visit Heinz Field versus the Pittsburgh Steelers (13-4) in the AFC Championship game, the Jets will be traveling the same path as their opponents’ did five years ago. The Steelers, in 2005, won games at Cincinnati, at Indianapolis, and at Denver to win a spot in the Super Bowl as a #6 seed and New York is trying to do the same after wins against Indianapolis and New England. A victory in Pittsburgh would mean a trifecta against three of the NFL’s elite franchises. Here are three keys to a Jets victory:
On December 19, in Heinz Field, the Jets ran for over 100 yards in a 22-17 victory. Both LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene each ran for more than 40 yards and that was enough to play ball control and keep the pressure off quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Steelers defense allowed the least amount of average rushing yards per game since 2000 but the Jets were move the ball on the ground, more so than just any other team other than the Patriots, the team New York dispatched last week, by the way.
Knock Ben Down
The Jets have shown they can get pressure on a quarterback but pressure is not enough when you are playing Ben Roethlisberger. You can get a hand on him, maybe even two, but you have to get him on the ground or there could be trouble. The Ravens sacked the quarterback six times last week against a shaky offensive line so it can be done.
Set the ‘Tone
Yes, the Jets want to protect Sanchez but they should come out throwing, ala Big Ben in 2005, get the early lead, and play from ahead. Sanchez is effective with short to intermediate passes to Santonio Holmes, Jerricho Cotchery, and Braylon Edwards. If they spread the Steelers out early, they could expose some weaknesses . . . but watch out for Troy Polamalu, who skipped the first game because of injuries.
New York is the underdog by +3 ½ but they have a chance if they can keep the ball, force Ben into quick throws, and avoid the costly turnovers that cost Baltimore, head Rex Ryan’s old team, the game last week.
Even that might not be enough.
Pittsburgh 27 New York 17
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