The question of the week in Pittsburgh has been what the New York Jets defense will do to try to shut down the Steelers' offense in light of what they did on the road in Indianapolis and New England the past two weeks.
The Jets might have the best one-two cornerback combo in the game with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, and a stout front seven. The Steelers offensive line has been leaky and their ground game so-so.
"Literally everything from their coverages to their blitzes to rushing two guys ad getting sacks," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, "it is truly amazing.
"They can go into Indianapolis and beat Peyton Manning and go to New England and beat Tom Brady, who are the two best quarterbacks in the game in my opinion. I don't know how I have a chance. I'm just going to have to try and get lucky and play the best I can."
Roethlisberger, though, is fooling no one, because he has risen on a level where he can challenge those two. He has two Super Bowl rings and at age 28 is trying for a third, which would tie Brady and give him two more than Manning.
Against the Jets on Dec. 19, Roethlisberger completed 23 of 44 passes for 264 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. The Steelers also rushed for 146 yards and did not commit a turnover. But a 97-yard kickoff return by the Jets' Brad Smith for a touchdown to open the game provided the difference in a 22-17 Steelers loss at Heinz Field.
"This week is about playing this Jet defense," Roethlisberger said, "which may be one of the best we have ever played."
The Steelers on Sunday might see themselves in the mirror when the New York Jets take Heinz Field in the AFC Championship Game, a flashback for them to 2005.
Pittsburgh became the first sixth seed to win two playoff games on the road, then the AFC Championship Game on the road and then the Super Bowl. They did it with a second-year quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, a year after they lost in the championship game with him as their rookie quarterback.
Mark Sanchez, the Jets' second-year quarterback, guided them to the AFC Championship Game last year and lost. The Jets, the sixth seed in the AFC, have won two in a row and Sunday could make it three as they look to follow in the '05 Steelers' footsteps.
"It's really hard," Roethlisberger said of the literal road to the Super Bowl he and his teammates blazed in 2005. "You want to do everything you can to play at home because you have the comfort of your fans, the stadium, the locker room. That's the hardest part, not necessarily where teams are seeded, it's not about seed, it's about where you play, home or on the road."
Roethlisberger said Sanchez has some of the advantages that he had when he went through the process in 2005 - a great defense and talent around him on offense, so that all the pressure wasn't piled on the quarterback.
"He had a lot of what I did, too," Roethlisberger said. "It's nice when they don't talk about you because they talk about your defense and how good they are and the players.
"So it's kind of a nice thing you can fly under the radar a little bit. With him being in New York it's a little bit harder to do that, but every week you watch him he's getting better. He takes the criticism that everyone seems to be giving him for some reason and just kind of seems to brush it off and move on and play better every week."
Compared to the Jets, Pittsburgh has been here before - and before that and before that and ... The Steelers are trying to reach their eighth Super Bowl and capture their seventh Lombardi Trophy. The Jets won Super Bowl III in 1969 and never made it back.
Linebacker Farrior, 35, has earned two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers and said not only does it not get old, the more you get, the more you want.
"It doesn't change; the goal every year is to win the championship. This year is no different. Even though we have two under our belt, most of the guys around here, we've got guys on this team who had never even played in a playoff game. I know those guys are hungry. I know everybody is ready to go get another one. It is the same feeling with any other championship game."
2nd meeting in the postseason. Steelers won that game in overtime 20-17 at Heinz Field after the 2004 season. The Steelers lead the regular-season series that began in 1970 16-4 but New York has won the past two, including a 22-17 win at Heinz Field on Dec. 19. That was the Jets' first win in Pittsburgh after going 0-for-7, counting their playoff loss.
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.