By Peter Schwartz
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Just let me start out by saying that this blog will deal completely with Sunday’s game between the Jets and Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. There will be no mention of the on-going “Trip-Gate” saga with regards to suspended Jets Strength and Conditioning Coach Sal Alosi.
I will not be discussing how the Jets went from just suspending him for the rest of the season and fining him $25,000 before uncovering “new information”. Since the Jets have now determined that Alosi ordered inactive players to form a wall on the sidelines during punt returns, I will not be delving into the fact that the Jets have now suspended Alosi indefinitely pending further review and I won’t be telling you that the Jets are coming off as complete frauds because the feeling is that Alosi didn’t come up with this plan on his own.
I also promise not to get into the fact that the NFL is now investigating the matter nor will I reiterate my feelings that Alosi should have been fired for his actions. That is unless the Jets instructed the behavior and the sideline plan and are simply making Alosi the fall guy for yet another embarrassing black mark on the franchise.
Okay, now that I have that out of the way, let’s get down to some football.
Having lost two in a row, the Jets bring a 9-4 record into Heinz Field for a meeting with the 10-3 Steelers. It’s a tough challenge and the players know it.
“I’ve played these guys a bunch and they’re always good against the run,” said Ladainian Tomlinson of the Steelers who boast the NFL’s number one ranked rushing defense. “It doesn’t change, but we have a good offensive line. I think everybody knows that. We have to come ready to play. We have to challenge them just like they’re going to challenge us, and the best man will win.”
Tomlinson is on the verge of another milestone. He leads the Jets with 49 receptions this season and with one catch against the Steelers, Tomlinson would become the third running back in NFL history to record at least 50 receptions in nine seasons.
This game is not without its fair share of storylines including a pair of homecomings.
First, Aliquippa, PA native Darrelle Revis returns to the stadium where he played college football for the University of Pittsburgh. He knows what the Jets have to do in order to escape with a victory.
“A lot of focus and a sense of urgency for this game,” said Revis who needed thirty tickets for family and friends. “We have to come out of there with a win. We know it’s going to be a hostile environment and we’re going to see all the Terrible Towels and those types of things. The field, I played there in college, is one of the roughest fields in the NFL, so we have to make sure we take care of our footing out there. It’s going to be a hostile environment, so we have to come out of there with a win.”
Revis expects to play despite suffering a hamstring injury in practice on Thursday.
Let’s be honest, do you think there is anyway that Revis will not be on the field in his backyard?
Also returning to Heinz Field is former Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Acquired by the Jets during the off-season for a fifth round pick, Holmes was the Super Bowl XLIII MVP as a member of the Steelers. He’s not sure what to expect in terms of his emotions.
“I honestly don’t know,” said Holmes. “Right now, I’m focused on the (plan) that we put in this week, how we’re going to practice, how we’re going to prepare for this week and I’ll let all the emotions out come Sunday.”
Holmes and the rest of the Jets offense will be looking to get things on track after failing to score a touchdown in each of the last two games. Mark Sanchez has taken a lot of the responsibility for that, but the Jets’ second year quarterback is confident that things will change, albeit against an outstanding Steelers defense.
“Absolutely,” said Sanchez. “It’s going to be a big challenge for us. I know their defense is one of the toughest in the league, so that’s always good. We need to play our best and it’s about time we started playing at our best, so it’s a good opportunity for us. We just need to be more efficient, that’s for sure. (We need to) take care of the football, get completions early and often in the passing game and (we) have to get the running game going a little bit. It’ll be a good challenge because they’re a great front-seven, their back end does a great job as well, so it’s a good team to challenge us and we’re ready for that.”
The Jets will be taking on that challenge without starting right tackle Damien Woody who underwent surgery on his right knee this week. Wayne Hunter will get the start in his place. The Jets will also be without safety Eric Smith because of a concussion.
Gang Green might be battered, bruised, and reeling, but they still have some work to do if they plan on making the playoffs.
“This is the home stretch in December,” said wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery. “We’re talking about making a run and these are the games that you have to win.”
The Jets’ playoff scenario is chronicled below, but suffice it to say that the Jets will probably have to win two of the last three games to punch a ticket to the post-season.
But, winning on Sunday in Pittsburgh will not be easy.
“I know one thing,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “We’re heading to Pittsburgh and that’s a tough place to play. It’s as tough as it gets, going against as good a defense as there is, going against a great quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger), a proven two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback. They have explosive receivers. It’s going to be a battle. If you plan on beating Pittsburgh, you have to bring it all and that’s what we’re planning on bringing.”
The Jets may also want to bring a rabbit’s foot, a four leaf clover, a horseshoe, or anything else that can get their luck shifted in the right direction. This is a monumental task for a team that is in a bad way right now.
The Steelers lead the all-time regular season series 15-3 and are 6-0 against the Jets in Pittsburgh. The last meeting came in 2007 when the Jets beat the Steelers 19-16 in overtime at Giants Stadium. The last regular season meeting between these two teams in Pittsburgh was a 17-6 win by the Steelers in 2004. The Jets and Steelers also met in the AFC Divisional Playoff following the 2004 season and the Steelers prevailed 20-17 in overtime.
Yes, that was the game in which Doug Brien missed a pair of potential game winning field goals in the fourth quarter.
THE PLAYOFF PICTURE
Because the Chargers won on Thursday night, the Jets chances of clinching a playoff spot this week are very limited. According to the NFL, the Jets need a win over the Steelers coupled with a Dolphins loss or tie, a Colts loss or tie, and a Chiefs loss.
There are other scenarios in which the Jets may clinch a playoff spot if they clinch the strength of victory tiebreaker over certain teams this weekend.
Okay, it’s prediction time. This is a tough spot for the Jets and I just find it hard to believe that they can get come out of Pittsburgh with a win. It’s not because they’ve never won there, but rather because of the state of the team right now.
Steelers 20 Jets 6
That’s it for now. Enjoy the game!
- Steelers’ Wallace: Jets’ Revis Is ‘Just Another Guy’ (newyork.cbslocal.com)