Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. New York Jets: Don't "Sleep" On Mike Tomlin's Defense

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Pittsburgh Steelers Vs. New York Jets: Don't
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jets RB Shonn Greene literally put thousands of Patriot fans to bed in the Jets playoff win. Expect those actions to fire up the Steelers' defense

Jets safety Antonio Cromartie knows what it's like to be a father, but he didn't need to put any of his nine children to bed in Gillette Stadium over the weekend.

Instead, it was Jets running back Shonn Greene who was doing the fatherly duties by putting thousands of fans to sleep.

With their wins at Indianapolis and New England, Rex Ryan and his defense have achieved a scary perception and they are a very good unit, but Pittsburgh’s defense finished second in the league and ahead of the Jets.

Nobody seems to be talking about that, but that’s because the Steelers aren’t talking.

In addition to a sellout crowd at Gillette Stadium, a record amount of television viewers tuned in to watch the Jets defeat the Patriots as a decent underdog.

Among those viewers were Troy Polamalu and James Harrison, who witnessed Greene score the Jets’ final touchdown before laying down in the end zone in a fetal position, as if to tell the Patriots fans it’s time to go to sleep.

Don’t expect that to happen on Harrison’s or Polamalu’s watch.

Nobody should be too surprised with the Patriots' home loss to the Jets; Tom Brady’s crew was plus-27 in turnover margin in the regular season and weren’t quite as good as their record indicated.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Rex Ryan has become known as quite the motivator, but like Sanchez, he's still only in his second season

Now, Rex Ryan will be trying to do what Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did in February of 2009: coach his team to a Super Bowl in his second season.

To achieve this, he’ll need another win out of Mark Sanchez, who is also in his second season. The youngster will attempt to defeat Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger consecutively, all on the road.

More importantly, he will attempt to defeat Pittsburgh’s defense on the road.

Earlier in the season, the Jets won at Pittsburgh by a score of 22-17, but the Steelers were without Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller. Ben Roethlisberger and the offense had a chance to win the game in the final seconds, but missed three shots to the end zone with a first-and-goal.

That wasn’t the first time Mike Tomlin was matched up against a Rex Ryan defense.

Pittsburgh defeated the Baltimore Ravens all three times during the 2008 season when Ryan was the Ravens defensive coordinator.

For the Jets, this season’s playoffs are extremely similar to their playoff run from last season. In January 2010, Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez, both rookies with the Jets, won at Cincinnati as a 2.5-point underdog before knocking off the Chargers on the road as a nine-point underdog.

This second time around features a similar run, where the Jets won at Indianapolis as a 2.5-point underdog and defeated the Patriots as a nine-point underdog, just as they did at San Diego.

Nick Laham/Getty Images
Ben Roethlisburger, who will be eager to get to a Super Bowl to make up for his off season antics, has a passer rating 20 points higher than Mark Sanchez

The difference? They were an eight-point underdog heading into last year’s AFC championship game at Indianapolis, where they lost by 13 points.

This season, they have garnered enough respect to be listed as about a 3.5-point underdog.

That is, respect with oddsmakers.

They say the apple usually doesn’t fall far from the tree. When Rex Ryan’s father Buddy Ryan came to Philadelphia in the mid-'80s, the city adopted a whole new style and attitude with the Eagles they called "Buddy Ball."

Buddy Ryan had the same hard-nosed philosophy as his son and wasn’t afraid to make his enemies known. Perhaps his most famous "trait" was running straight to the lockers after the game without shaking hands with the opposing coach.

Unfortunately for the Philadelphia faithful, the attitude never translated into a Super Bowl appearance for the Eagles while Buddy Ryan was the head coach, despite several years of having a fine defense.

Two decades later, Buddy Ryan’s son has motivated his players into a fearless group of competitors who aren’t afraid to make their thoughts known publicly.

Leading up to the Patriots game, words and thoughts were revealed to the media from Jets players, and some were derogatory to quarterback Tom Brady.

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The media loves it and the blogs love it. In the end, the words held up and didn’t affect the Jets' success in the game, but they know better than to brew up any more emotions than necessary in the heads of the James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and a Steelers defense that is giving up 30 yards per game less than the Jets this season.

Perhaps they don’t have to. Shonn Greene’s sleeping motion may have been all the fuel the Steelers need to push their energy and adrenaline to its maximum level.

Rex Ryan’s motivational ability has already shown its potential. The coach, along with his second year quarterback, is a prime candidate for a fine career.

But asking for a Super Bowl appearance in their second season is requesting a tall task, especially considering the Jets are playing their third straight road playoff game against a quality opponent.

Since the NFL moved to a six team playoff format in 1990, fewer teams have made it past two straight road games than the number of children fathered by Jets safety Antonio Cromartie.

As for winning three straight road games, it’s happened just twice in the last 20 years.

Will it happen twice in one weekend?

The only two teams to achieve this feat were Bill Cowher’s Pittsburgh Steelers at the conclusion of the 2005 season and the New York Giants when they knocked off the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.

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The other six teams that made it that far lost the third game by an average of 13 points.

Rex Ryan said before the Patriots game that it was the second biggest game in franchise history.

After such an emotionally and physically charged performance in a game they treated like the Super Bowl, one must wonder how much gas the Jets, and their team plane, will have left in the tank for Pittsburgh.

With two of the top three defenses squaring off on the same field, this looks to be a hard-fought battle in the trenches, but the Steelers and their fans will be eager to preserve the pride of the Steel City.

You can bet the hard hitting Troy Polamalu and James Harrison will not lay down easily and allow another late-game end zone celebration similar to what was endured by those at Gillette Stadium.

Neither will Ike Taylor.

"I'm not going to hesitate to lay him out" said the Steelers cornerback, referring to Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes.

Expect the Steelers to be all business against a Jets team that may be expired after their huge win at New England, as they win their game by at least a field goal in what should be a low scoring affair.

In the spirit of Shonn Greene, that’s a prediction you can "sleep" on!

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