Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Jets: Steelers To Host AFC Championship Game

Ahmad Rashad@@BigARashadAnalyst IJanuary 17, 2011

Ben celebrates after Mendenhall scores the game winning touchdown against the Ravens.
Ben celebrates after Mendenhall scores the game winning touchdown against the Ravens.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Nobody gave the Jets a chance. The Patriots had blown them out 45-3 in their previous meeting and were considered by most to be unbeatable.

During the week leading up to this matchup, Rex Ryan said that all he had to do was be better than the Patriots for this one day and his team would win.

His words would come true for when the clock read 0:00, the Jets were on the right side of the score that said 28-21.

With that victory, the Jets will have to travel to the Steel City to take on the white-hot Pittsburgh Steelers who they beat at Heinz Field in Week 15.

I know some people, like me, wanted to get revenge on the Patriots, but what Steelers fan would complain about having the AFC championship at home? Not me.

This will make the Steelers' fifth AFC championship game in 10 seasons, four of which were played, or will be played, at home.

There is no questioning that the road to the Super Bowl for the Steelers just got a lot easier. The Jets like to run the football and the Steelers are the best at stopping the run. Once the running game is grounded, it will be up to Sanchez to win the game.

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Mark Sanchez showed great poise against the Patriots by throwing three touchdowns and not turning the ball over. However, the Patriots defense was young and had little playoff experience.

The Steelers are a veteran defense and have tons of playoff experience. It won't be easy, if at all possible, to duplicate those stats next week.

I also noticed that whenever Sanchez was under heavy pressure, his throws were off target and he was forced to throw earlier than he would have liked.

We all know the Steelers like to blitz so I expect to see a lot of that Sunday. Also expect to see some interceptions because the Steelers swarm to the ball like bumblebees.

One special playmaker will look to join the fray as he missed the first matchup with an Achilles injury. Barring any unforeseen catastrophe this week, Troy Polamalu will play against the Jets. He was rather quiet against the Ravens so I expect him to make some noise in this one.   

On offense, the Steelers will be looking to bounce back from a less-than-stellar first half performance against the Ravens. Revis and Cromartie are excellent defensive backs, but the Steelers were able to get the ball to Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown and let them torch the Jets secondary.

Heath Miller should see the ball often in this game as he missed the first matchup with a concussion. Heath has been on a roll ever since he came back in Week 16. Since that time, he hasn't dropped a pass that has come his way.

The only thing that could hold the Steelers offense back is the offensive line. They got manhandled by the Ravens and gave up six sacks. However, they did an excellent job in blitz pickup and protecting Ben in their previous meeting.

It will take a similar, if not better effort this time around as the Jets will be looking to attack Ben all day long.

The only thing the Steelers have to be concerned with in this game is special teams. In the first meeting, they allowed Brad Smith to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Last week, the Steelers had a long kickoff return and a punt return for a touchdown called back.

Special teams has to get it together this week. The Steelers are so close to the Super Bowl I can practically taste it. I don't want a special teams collapse to keep the Steelers from the Super Bowl.

With all that said, if the Steelers play their style of football and don't beat themselves, they should handle the Jets pretty easily. They're at home, they have eight days to prepare, they have Ben and Troy and they have Steeler Nation.

I have the Steelers winning this game 34-16.

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