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Jets coach Rex Ryan considers Steelers coach Mike Tomlin one of his biggest rivals

He may not like to admit it, but Ryan has a lot of respect for Tomlin; but he does appreciate Tomlin's approach to the game and the losses Ryan suffered at Tomlin's hand.

Vincent Pugliese-USA TODAY Sport

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan still considers New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick his greatest rival, but in his words, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is 'gaining on him'.

Ryan was confronted with this statement by Peter King in a conversation on Ryan explained why Tomlin was held in such high regard as an AFC East divisional rival and coaching legend in his own right.

"I got beat by Mike Tomlin in an AFC Championship game once as a head coach, and once as a defensive coordinator. So, he's right at that list - that hit list."

Ryan is referring to the 2008 defeat of the Baltimore Ravens, where Ryan served as the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach, which preceded the Steelers' victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Then in 2010, after an inspired victory over Belichick's favored Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs, Ryan's Jets lost the next week to the Steelers.

Ryan may get tired of losing to Tomlin, but he does know why Tomlin is as successful as he has been.

"He's a great coach; no question. He always has his teams prepared, and he has a great staff with him, also."

The Jets have some work ahead of them if Ryan is looking to exact some AFCCG revenge, but they will meet in a regular season matchup in 2013, which will have to do for now.

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