On the Steelers: Jets had success running against Steelers defense

A relatively quiet storm is brewing between the Steelers and Jets, 'old-school' teams with solid defenses

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ryan Clark does not expect the kind of verbal animosity -- a.k.a. trash talking -- the Jets cut loose last week on the Patriots to be turned against the Steelers this week.

The two teams have played each other just twice in the past five seasons and there is just no story line there, Clark said.

"The only story line we have is six trophies."

It has been 42 years since the New York Jets captured their only Lombardi Trophy in their only appearance in a Super Bowl, so the Jets might find a way to turn that comment into their own benefit.

There is, however, a story line for both the AFC championship game at Heinz Field and the NFC championship in Chicago, both on Sunday. This is old-school football featuring four northern teams, including three that have been part of the NFL since at least 1933. Both games will be played on grass fields and of the final four teams, only the Jets play on artificial turf at home.

More telling: The final four all believe in the concept of playing good defense. Each team's defense finished in the top 10 in the league: The Steelers ranked No. 2, the Jets No. 3, the Green Bay Packers No. 5 and the Chicago Bears No. 9.

No Greatest Show on Turf among them, although three of their offenses have shown some potency with the Packers offense ranked No. 9, the Jets 11 and the Steelers 14. Only the Bears, ranked 30th, did not have an offense in the top half of the league.

"Defense is important, clearly," Clark said, "unless you have a team that is going to outscore everybody you play, and I think that's what New England was kind of doing for a while."

New England, which finished with the NFL's best record at 14-2, had just the 25th ranked defense in the league -- and the No. 8 offense, higher than any of the final four teams.

"Their defense wasn't the best, but they were able to hold enough because they always put up so many points," Clark noted. "But in the end, you need to be solid on defense, need to give your offense the ball in good field position, and I think that's what these defenses have been doing."

"Just watching the games throughout the weekend, you look at the plays that made a difference, it was defensively. You think about [Green Bay cornerback] Tramon Williams' interception in the end zone, then he returns one for a touchdown.

"The way the Jets played defense against New England, [Darrelle] Revis getting a lot of balls out and tackling well and getting pressure on Tom Brady, that's what you need. Some games you are going to be able to outscore the other team, but when it comes down to it you have to stop people from putting the ball in the end zone. So these defenses playing so well have really helped these teams get to this point."

Jets boast strong run game
No one ran for many yards against the Steelers, who led the NFL by a wide margin and set a franchise record by allowing only 68.2 yards rushing per game.

But the Jets did it better than anyone with 106 yards. New England was the only other team to top 100 yards rushing against the Steelers defense the past season with 103.

LaDainian Tomlinson topped the Jets with 49 yards on 11 carries and Shonn Greene added 40 yards on 12 carries.

"I would try to run it again," Clark said of the Jets. "They were successful with it. I think if you look at them, too, they're running the ball to keep other offenses off the field.

"When you have a blitzing and attacking type of defense, if you can keep your play count down, if you can keep the number of plays you have to play down, you have your guys fresh and they're able to continue playing hard, continue to run to the ball, continue to pursue. And so I think that's the way they're looking at it, trying to get back to that 'ground and pound' mantra."

Steelers defensive line coach John Mitchell will hammer that point home all week, Clark predicted.

"I know coach Mitch, his hair is going to be on fire all week because the D-Line, that's all he ever talks about is not giving up running yards. I think if we got bombed on all day he'll be OK, but if they rush for 100, it's going to be trouble."

Bigger, better title
Rookie center Maurkice Pouncey earned a national championship in college at Florida and would like to add another title in the pros.

"It's so much better," he said after experiencing his first NFL playoff game. "There is so much more on the line. In college it was awesome. We had a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. But here it is truly what you do."

All-Pro and all-rookie teams
Linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu made the first team in the Pro Football Weekly/Professional Football Writers All-Pro team. Pouncey, who made the Pro Bowl, was named to the all-rookie team.

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