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Steelers Jets AFC Championship Preview

The Jets have been road warriors so far this year in the playoffs, beating both the Colts and division rival Pats on the road. If the Jets somehow make it to the Super Bowl this year, they will have followed the same road the Steelers went down in 2005 en route to a Super Bowl win. Let’s break down the game.

Jets on Offense – After a rocky start last week, Mark Sanchez managed to put together an impressive game. The reason why though isn’t because he’s the next coming of Joe Montana (or Ben Roethlisberger) it’s because the Patriot defense (which isn’t very good and proved that last week) could not stop the Jets running attack which opened up the passing game in a big way for the Jets. This will be the key for the Jets offense on Sunday. In the earlier matchup this year between the Steelers and Jets,  Tomlinson actually had almost a 5 yard average running the ball and the Jets were only the 2nd team to put up over 100 yards rushing against the Steelers defense this year.  This played a big role in helping the Jets offense put up 22 points and aided Sanchez in putting together an efficient game. The Steelers simply need to shut down the Jets run game and make Sanchez beat them. Make no mistake, though, this will not be an easy task. The Jets O-line has been on a roll and Tomlinson seems to be on a mission right now. The Steelers D-line and the inside LB’s will need to play great in the run stuffing department. Troy (who didn’t play in the earlier game) will probably drop down in the box a good bit.

In the passing game, look for Ike Taylor to shadow former Steeler Santonio Holmes. Holmes was held largely in check the earlier matchup. With Bryant McFadden banged up, he’ll probably share duties with Willie Gay in covering Braylon Edwards. It’ll be interesting to see how much pressure the Steelers bring on Sanchez in passing situations. In the first matchup, the Steelers had only 1 sack on Sanchez and didn’t get much in the way of pressure on him. The worst thing the Steelers defense can do in this game is sit back and let Sanchez get comfortable in the pocket early in the game. That could set the tone the rest of the way. The best approach would be to mix up the blitzes, show things that weren’t present in the earlier matchup and press on the WR’s a good bit. In other words, put it on Sanchez to be great. I don’t know if he has it in him. Last week, the Pats hardly touched Sanchez the entire game, that can’t happen this week.

Steelers on Offense – As stated on here last week, the rookie WR’s (Manny Sanders and Antonio Brown) had the potential (and were) to be difference makers against the Ravens. I honestly think they could play an even bigger role in the outcome of this game. With CB Darrelle Revis set to cover Ward a good bit, if not the whole game and Antonio “I like to hold and never get called” Cromartie set to cover Wallace, the rookies have the potential to be difference makers once again. Will they deliver? In the previous game, Sanders had one of his best games of his short career, coming away with 7 grabs for almost 80 yards. He probably would’ve caught the game-winner if not for a blatant hold by Cromartie on the Steelers final drive.  Antonio Brown chipped in 2 more grabs. That’s not to say that Ward or Wallace won’t have productive games. Wallace actually had 7 grabs for over 100 yards in the earlier matchup, but the Jets will no doubt be focusing on Wallace in this game. Heath Miller (who didn’t play in the earlier game) could also have a huge impact in this game if the ball is thrown his way (which it most definitely should be).

The Steelers O-line had arguably their best game of the year in the earlier game against the Jets. In both pass protection and run blocking, the O-line had an overall impressive game. The O-line is a little more banged up now and the Jets are hot so it’ll be interesting to see how they perform on Sunday. Mendenhall, on a number of occasions in the previous game, had big holes to run through. If that continues on Sunday, it’ll make the Jets pass defense easier to throw on.

Ben actually struggled at times against the Jets in the previous game, missing targets at times and struggling to find open WR’s at other times. If the Steelers use the whole field and every weapon on the offense in smart ways, it’ll do wonders for Ben’s production in this game. Regardless, Ben is a big time QB who never fails to step it up in the big games. It may not always be pretty but look for that to continue on Sunday. If not, the Steelers chances of winning this game plummets.

5 Signs the Steelers Are Going To Lose On Sunday…

1. The Steelers are either not blitzing Sanchez enough or simply failing to get to him.

2. Arians is having a bad day (well, worse than usual).

3, Steeler ST’s continue to struggle.

4. Tomlinson is having a good game in both the run game and receiving.

5. A number of flukey plays have gone the Jets way.

5 Signs the Steelers Are Going To Win On Sunday….

1. Jets run game is nearly non-existent.

2. The rookie WR’s are producing.

3. Sanchez is struggling and facing consistent pressure.

4. The Steelers run game is producing, setting up some nice pass plays.

5. Steeler ST’s haven’t screwed the pooch.

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