Big games call for the PZB to step up. We're breaking out the big guns this week. We're gonna split this badboy into two parts, focusing on the Steelers' AFC Championship game opponent, the Jets, in Part I, with all the Steelers news you'll need being posted tomorrow.
The AFC has mostly been dominated by either the Colts or the Patriots for the last decade. The Steelers threw their hat into this ring with a dominant defensive effort in the second half against Baltimore. The win - the third over the Hated Ravens in the post-season - moved Pittsburgh into a familiar spot.
The AFC Championship Game.
PZB gets fired up just hearing those words. Cowher got the monkey off his back in 2006. Tomlin picked up where he left off in 2009 and has the chance to even The Chin in Super Bowl appearances.
The bold and brash Jets stand in the way of that. A supremely confident team put together an excellent victory over the heavily favored Patriots last week, a division rival of their own.
The balance of post-season success is now shared between Pittsburgh and New York. It's both teams' second conference championship appearance in the last three years, and their first meeting in this game.
Opponent Web Sites/Forums
The Jets returned to New York after their win over New England to a change of direction, initiated by Rex Ryan.
Ryan isn't being as bold, or talking as much trash as he did, he just wants a Super Bowl, like coach Tomlin has.
Matt Birch of Gang Green Nation talked about Calvin Pace's appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
It's David Harris Appreciation Day. Apparently.
Opponent Spotlight: CB Darrelle Revis
Insert clever line about a hypothetical swatch of land totally surrounded by water that Revis allegedly owns.
No man is an island. Revis is a damn good cornerback though.
The Alaquippa product simply has something of which quarterbacks are allergic. They aren't even looking in his direction more often than anything. That characteristic gives the Jets the flexibility to do with him - and the rest of the defense - whatever they want in coverage.
In a piece of game managerial brilliance, Ryan activated 11 defensive backs for their divisional game against the Patriots, and frustrated QB Tom Brady into hanging onto the ball for way too long, and taking an uncharacteristic five sacks.
There's another outstanding AFC team that has a quarterback who's known to hang onto the ball for a bit longer than most.
Would it be a surprise to see Ryan employ a similar strategy, with Revis being the centerpiece of varied but mostly man coverage? With the way the Steelers wide receivers have been playing, it wouldn't be at all a shock. The question is, will Revis be assigned responsibility to any one Steelers receiver?
Curiously, he was not given the task of handling Mike Wallace in the teams' Week 15 match-up. In fact, he was seen on the rookie Manny Sanders more often than anyone else (Sanders got him once for a 29 yard completion), with battery mate Antonio Cromartie handling Wallace, to varying level of success.
The Jets game plan against the Steelers clearly was to be physical with the receivers, and they played a lot of underneath zone coverage. Expect something similar to that, but Revis will be used both in the slot and outside the numbers in man coverage, daring the Steelers to sacrifice a receiver to clear him out with deep routes. Ryan will try to bait Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians into three and four wide receiver sets, which will allow the Jets to counter with another impressive cover defensive back.
The key is Revis, because he's going to be on an island (there's that word again), and despite being an outstanding cover man, it only takes one mistake at the wrong time for Roethlisberger, much more the gambler than either Brady or Peyton Manning, the Jets' last two opponents, to make a big play.
Big plays decide playoff games. Ryan's swashbuckling style vs. Roethlisberger's intense desire to make big plays will make this one a game to remember.