The Pittsburgh Steelers will be playing for their third trip to the Super Bowl since the 2005 season against an AFC East team that they lost to earlier this season, and no, it is not the New England Patriots.
Coming off a very impressive 28-21 victory over New England, the New York Jets are going to look to replicate their defensive effort against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to earn a trip to the Super Bowl.
Since opening Heinz Field in 2001, Pittsburgh has hosted four AFC Championship games (2001, 2004, 2008 and 2010). They lost to New England in the first two and defeated the Baltimore Ravens in the most recent on their way to a record sixth Super Bowl title.
Pittsburgh played New York on January 15, 2005 in the AFC Divisional round in an overtime thriller.
Rookie Ben Roethlisberger and Jerome Bettis helped the Steelers to a 20-17 overtime victory on the heels of two missed field goals by Doug Brien.
Earlier this season, Pittsburgh lost to New York 22-17 in a game in which the Steelers were missing Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller.
Polamalu’s absence was felt, as the Jets rushed for over 100 yards as a team, well above what the Steelers allowed for the season, and Mark Sanchez was able to make just enough plays with his arm and legs.
On offense, Matt Spaeth was not able to make up for Miller’s absence, dropping multiple passes which could have been enough to give the Steelers the win.
Even with the injuries, Roethlisberger was able to put Pittsburgh in position to win before running out of time after a third-down incompletion.
Looking ahead to next week, Pittsburgh is playoff tested and has a quarterback who has started three AFC Championship games and has won two Super Bowls. For his career, Roethlisberger owns a 9-2 playoff record.
Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have gone 4-1 in the playoffs, including 3-0 during the 2008-09 Super Bowl season.
To advance to their eighth Super Bowl, the Steelers will have to apply pressure to Sanchez and continue to be strong against the run. They will also have to shut down former Steeler Santonio Holmes, who has caught a pass in all but one of his playoff games.
Offensively, Pittsburgh will have to score touchdowns and not rely on Shaun Suisham to kick field goals. Roethlisberger will have to use all of his receiving options to go against New York’s excellent defensive backfield.
They will also need more from Rashard Mendenhall and their ground game to help set up the play-action pass.
The Steelers and Jets will kick off next Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. from Heinz Field.
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