The thought of the Steelers playing at Heinz Field for the right to go to the Super Bowl really seemed almost impossible 24 hours ago. Despite all their bravado and trash-talking, I didn't think the New York Jets would be able to go to Foxboro and manhandle the Patriots the way they did yesterday with their 28-21 victory over New England that ended another shot at the Super Bowl for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Now that it's a reality and the Jets will be coming to Heinz Field next Sunday evening to take on the Steelers with the AFC crown as the prize, I'm a bit concerned.
Not because I don't think it's a great matchup for the Steelers, I do. It's because I've seen this so many times before with them at home in the AFC championship game.
They get that premium matchup at home against a team that most expect them to handle and they go out there and lay an egg. It's happened so many times over the past 17 seasons.
I really shouldn't be worried about this game because the Steelers have long since slayed their AFC Championship dragon with two trips to the Super Bowl since 2005. Heck, one of them was even at home against their most hated rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. And they won those two Super Bowls they advanced to. Why so worried?
Well, I'm very superstitious, and this little run the Jets are on reminds me an awful lot of the Steelers' 2005 run. It's almost like New York stole the script.
They have a second year quarterback that nobody really takes seriously in Mark Sanchez. People look at him as just a game-manager who relies on a great running attack and a dominant defense. Remind anyone of Roethisberger's first few years in the league? Plus, Sanchez took his team to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie and he's back again to try and take them to the next level. Spooky.
The Jets also have a veteran running back who's not the player he used to be and isn't really among the elite backs anymore, but is still an inspirational figure for his teammates and is looking to get a crack at a ring before he calls it a day. Sound familiar? Doesn't it remind you of a former legendary Steelers' running back?
Also, the Jets were simply throttled by the Patriots in a Monday Night game towards the end of the year. The Patriots were considered almost unstoppable heading into the playoffs.
The Colts embarrassed the Steelers on a Monday night back in '05 when Indianapolis was trying for an undefeated season, and even though perfection didn't happen, the Colts were the unanimous pick to win it all heading into the postseason.
The Jets finished the regular season 11-5 and made the playoffs as the 6th seed in the AFC. They went into Indianapolis and defeated a fairly mediocre Colts team in the first round of the playoffs and headed to New England for a probable beatdown at the hands of the Patriots.
The Steelers took the same route in '05. They were 11-5 and made the playoffs as the 6th seed and went to Cincinnati and showed them who the true kings of the AFC North were and shuffled off to Indianapolis for what everyone assumed would be a blow out loss to the Colts.
Yesterday, the Jets completely took Tom Brady out of his game, sacking him numerous times and making the entire offense look out of sync the entire day. The Jets' offense didn't look dominant, but they did just enough to take advantage of a dominant performance by their defense.
Sound familiar? It should. It's exactly what the Steelers did to Peyton Manning and the Colts back in the '05 playoffs. The defense totally outclassed the Colts' offensive line the entire day and had Manning hearing footsteps. He was completely out of sorts for most of the game.
My God, even yesterday's halftime score was the same as the Steelers/Colts score back in '05: 14-3, Jets.
And the final thing that has me a little worried is our reaction to the great news that the Jets knocked off the Patriots and now the AFC Championship Game will be played right here in Pittsburgh.
I remember back in 2005, the Broncos fans were simply ecstatic that the Steelers went into Indy and knocked off the Colts. The AFC Championship game was going to be in Denver and it was going to be a victory party for the Broncos who were the number 2 seed that year. Their fans were actually thanking the Steelers for bringing the game to their house. Sound familiar?
But, if you take away that little bit of superstition and sense of deja vu that I have (I mean, after all, who am I?) the Steelers really should win this game going away.
Did you see the Jets reactions after their game yesterday? They acted like they just won the Super Bowl, like they used every bit of emotion to take out the Patriots.
Maybe they're spent.
Besides, in '05, Peyton Manning and the Colts weren't two-time Super Bowl champions like the Steelers are now. Manning was still looked at as a guy who couldn't win the big games. And the Broncos were a team that probably wasn't as good as their record and seed would have people believe, and they were led by a quarterback in Jake Plummer who certainly played well over his head that year before finally crashing to earth in the biggest game of the year.
Unlike recent Steelers' teams that had yet to get over that elusive hump, these Steelers know what it takes to win games like this Sunday's. They've succeeded under the biggest pressure possible.
No reason why January 23rd shouldn't be a great day for Steeler Nation.