The last time they met…
Week 15 of this season: Jets 22, Steelers 17 in Pittsburgh
- New York used a safety and a game-opening return touchdown to beat a Pittsburgh team that was without Troy Polamalu.
- The Steelers actually outgained the Jets 378-276.
- Neither team committed a turnover, but the Steelers were more efficient offensively, both passing and running.
Injuries to watch:
- The Jets are very healthy. Return/gadget specialist Brad Smith is set to return from a groin injury, while Jason Taylor has been medically cleared to play after suffering a concussion against New England.
- Two Pittsburgh defensive backs — Bryant McFadden and TroyPolamalu — were limited in practice Wednesday, but both are expected to play Sunday. Defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps) has been ruled out, but he hasn’t played since Week 7.
Four reasons I’m going with the Steelers in a defensive battle
1. Mark Sanchez has been solid in the playoffs, but he needs an efficient running game to be successful. Considering that no one can run on Pittsburgh’s top-ranked rush defence, there’s a very good chance all the pressure will fall on the 24-year-old Sanchez. And on the road, in the cold, against a veteran defence like Pittsburgh’s, I don’t like his odds.
2. Keep in mind, too, that Sanchez didn’t have to go against Polamalu in that first meeting. Things will be very different this week against a healthy Polamalu and his partner in crime, Ryan Clark.
3. Ultimately, the Jets will keep the game close because Rex Ryan is proving to be one hell of a defensive game-planner. He held the Patriots in check without utilizing the blitz last weekend. I expect Ryan to dial things up against a depleted Steelers offensive line that was abused by the Ravens in the divisional playoffs. If the Jets want to score at all in Pittsburgh, the defence will have to get to Ben Roethlisberger.
4. Darrelle Revis should have a beat on anything deep from Mike Wallace, but Roethlisberger is more mobile and has better options underneath than Peyton Manning or Tom Brady did. Watch for tight end Heath Miller — who also didn’t play in that first game — to make a big difference. I also expect to see Roethlisberger find Hines Ward on short routes and in the slot — and the Steelers would be smart to work in Rashard Mendenhall as a receiver.
This game has “under” written all over it. I think both teams will have a lot of trouble scoring. In fact, I wouldn’t shocked if the Jets were shut out at Heinz Field. The Steelers will win a close, low-scoring affair at home. Steelers 10, Jets 7
GLS in the playoffs: 7-1 (8-0 against the spread)