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Steelers Jets AFC Championship Recap

The Steelers had a great 1st half and then held on as the Jets staged a commendable comeback in the 2nd half to win, 24-19 and head to another Super Bowl!

– Ben didn’t have one of his better games but did enough at the right times to lead the Steelers to victory. On the opening drive Ben overthrew a wide open Heath Miller that would’ve gone for a TD. It looked like Miller caught the ball anyways but the Jets challenged the play, which was originally called a catch, and it was overruled. It didn’t matter as the Steelers scored on the drive anyways but that play was indicative of the kind of day Ben had throwing the ball, just off on a number of passes. There was another play, off of PA, where Ben hesitated on his deep throw to Mike Wallace that could’ve or should’ve been picked off by Darrelle Revis, but if Ben throws that right away that’s a sure TD. Ben was fortunate that he didn’t end the game with 3 or 4 INT’s to be honest. But at the same time, Ben made some clutch throws (like on the final drive that ultimately sealed the win) and runs and showed the intangible qualities (like escaping the pocket with relative ease) that he possesses that few QB’s have. Still, he will have to play a better game in two weeks if the Steelers are going to bring home #7.

– Rashard Mendenhall stepped it up in this game and had arguably the game of his career. At times he played like a man possessed out there, dodging players, actually breaking some tackles (!) and fighting for every yard (like on his TD run). Mendenhall WAS the Steelers offense in the 1st half for the most part and played a huge role in this win. He did fail to hit some holes correctly on a few runs and stumbled back at times instead of running forward but overall those are somewhat minor complaints. Isaac Redman also chipped in some impressive runs.

– The WR crew had a fairly quiet game as the Steelers only aired out the ball 19 times. Wallace had just 1 grab for 6 yards. Ward only had 2 grabs for 14 yards. The rookies combined for just 2 grabs for 34 yards. But one of those grabs (Antonio Brown’s) was a clutch grab that ultimately sealed the win on the final drive of the game. Mendenhall was actually second on the team in receiving yards with 32, while Heath Miller lead the way with 38 yards on two catches, one of which was a clutch grab (which was actually thrown behind him) on the final drive of the game. He was robbed, IMO, of a terrific snag on the opening drive of the game on an overthrown ball.

– The O-line lost rookie sensation Maurkice Pouncey about halfway through the game but the O-line still played a good game overall. Legursky filled in admirably for Pouncey (although he did have a couple snap miscues, one of which lead to a safety). The run blocking was terrific in the 1st half which played a big role in Mendy’s performance. The pass protection was decent at times although there were a few plays where Ben had to escape the pocket right after the snap.

– The D-line played a decent game in the run department. There were some plays where Shonn Green had some nice lanes to run through but with the Jets being down by 24 at one point the running game went out the window. Hood and Kiesel had 3 tackles a piece and 5 assists between them. Pretty good numbers for 3-4 linemen. Kiesel also had a batted ball on a pass. On three occasions, Casey Hampton got great pressure on Sanchez and almost sacked him each time.

– The LB’s had a good game. Harrison played like Harrison does which was great. He stuffed the run on a number of occasions and ended the game with 5 tackles and 2 assists. Timmons was once again active all over the field, breaking up a pass on a 3rd down and ending the game with the most tackles on the team with 9 and an assist. Farrior played a solid game although had a bizarre play where it looked like he tried to tackle a RB with just his helmet and may have suffered a slight concussion because of it. Who knows, it was a weird play. He ended the game with 5 tackles and 3 assists. Woodley had a great sack and a nice tackle on a run play, apart from that he was fairly quiet.

– Well, it looks like Ryan Clark is back to being Ryan Clark. Love the guy but great safety he is definitely not. He was literally ran over twice by Shonn Green which resulted in big gains and was pretty much a non-factor in the passing game. On Holmes’ long TD catch, Clark bit hard on the PA and as a result there was no safety help over top on the play. Ike Taylor played a solid game, his highlight being the strip sack on Sanchez which resulted in Gay’s TD off the fumble. He did fall down on Holmes’ TD catch and had his usual boneheaded plays but overall played a good game in coverage. McFadden and Gay were both spotty at times in pass coverage but overall not bad. Troy had another fairly quiet game but he did lay a couple nice licks on Jet WR’s. One concern was the Steelers secondary (and LB’s) didn’t seem to have an answer for TE Dustin Keller who ended the game with 8 receptions.

– Well, the ST’s didn’t screw the pooch which is always nice. The kickoff coverage still leaves plenty to be desired. Antonio Brown had a clutch return which set the Steelers up around the 40 yard line on the final drive of the game.

– Lebeau had his defense ready to go in the 1st half as the Steelers defense simply suffocated the Jets offense with some real hardnose ball. The 2nd half was a different story, though, as the Steelers had problems getting to Sanchez and covering WR’s (and even stopping the run at times). Sanchez ended the game 20/33 for 233 yards and 2 TD’s. Aaron Rodgers is a good bit better than Sanchez so hopefully Lebeau calls a masterful game in two weeks. The Steelers did have a terrific goalline stand in the 2nd half, which was partially aided by some questionable playcalling by the Jets (pass on 3rd, run on 4th up the middle??)

– Arians called one of his better games in the 1st half. He threw out some different looks, mixed up the playcalling nicely and had the Jets defense on their heals. In the 2nd half apparently Arians went on vacation or started drinking early or something as the Steelers offense failed to score any points. The Steelers seem to go brain dead when leading at times, seemingly not knowing what to do as they simply sit back and try to run the clock out. Tonight’s game was no different.

– Tomlin actually had his team ready to go in this game. The team was ready, the team was playing hard, all systems go. In the 2nd half Tomlin allowed his team to take the foot off the pedal (both offensively and defensively) and turned what was a 24-0 game into a 24-19 nail biter. Different game, same old story but a win is a win, especially when it’s in the AFCC game. Still, it’s somewhat of a concern when a team doesn’t seem to know what to do when leading other than to go into a conservative mindset which inevitably leads to tight games. The Steelers easily could’ve lost this game when it never should’ve come to that, but again, a win is a win.

– Overall, WHAT A GREAT FEELING. Super Bowl bound again! Steeler fans might be the most fortunate fans on the planet. The team will have to play a complete game this time, though (unlike today) if the Steelers are bringing home #7.

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