AFC Championship Game: New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers


New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh, PA Heinz Field
Sunday, January 23, 2011 6:30 PM ET, CBS

Laying the scene

The Jets have knocked off two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks the past two weeks, and look to do the same to two-time Super Bowl Champion Ben Roethlisberger this weekend. One of the bigger storylines of this week's game is the return of Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes to Pittsburgh after the Steelers hastily traded him away because of a tweet that implied he was about to "wake and bake".

What New York has to do to win

The Jets will want to duplicate what they did on defense last week, locking down the outside receivers with man coverage while covering the rest of the field with zones. Additionally, they'll want to try and contain Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the pocket so that he can't buy as much time by scrambling behind the line of scrimmage until his receiver gets open.

On offense, the Jets have to commit to running the ball, even if it isn't picking up as many yards per carry as the Jets would like to obtain. The Steelers' defense thrives on shutting down the run and forcing offenses to become one-dimensional. If the Jets allow this to happen, the game is as good as over.

What Pittsburgh has to do to win

It's no secret that the Jets' linebackers struggle in pass coverage, so Ben Roethlisberger should look to his tight end Heath Miller early and often. While the Steelers should not abandon the run, they will find more success through the air than they will on the ground.

On defense, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau needs to make a priority out of right tackle Willie Hunter, who was absolutely manhandled in pass protection by the Patriots last week. Sanchez is still young and inexperienced, so the best way to pressure him is by letting him see the pass-rushers getting up in his face.

The call

The Jets have played so well in part because they've embraced the "us against the world mentality" that Rex Ryan promotes. Oddly enough, the Jets have turned down the trash-talk this week, and Ryan has declared that this week's game isn't personal at all. This strange departure from a formula that was working well is a major gamble, and I don't see it paying off for the Jets. It will be an interesting game, but the Steelers should pull away with the win.

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Hank is a sports journalist attending the University of Missouri's school of journalism.

You may email Hank at or follow him on Twitter at HankKoebler

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