The Pittsburgh Steelers will look to advance to their third Super Bowl in six years when they host the New York Jets at Heinz Field on Sunday evening. The Steelers are fresh off of a hard fought victory over the Baltimore Ravens, 31-24, on Saturday. The Steelers pulled off the victory the same way they always do in January; with great defense and clutch offense. Pittsburgh held Baltimore to 126 total net yards, only 2.4 per play, and kept the Ravens out of the end zone for the entire second half.
This week we can expect much of the same from the Steelers, as they will face the New York Jets, who will undoubtedly try to establish their running game and control the clock. The Jets, who are fresh off of an upset of the Super Bowl favorite New England Patriots, are also where they are because of defense. Like the Steelers, they have a great pass rush that attempts to force their opponents to throw the ball downfield to create offense.
However, the Jets differ from the Steelers once you get to that second level. They have Darrelle Revis, one of the few elite shutdown corners in the NFL, who can eliminate any receiver from the game. On the opposite side is Antonio Cromartie, who is the playmaking corner who gets more than his share of opportunities to come down with turnovers. But Cromartie is also prone to mistakes, especially over the middle of the field. Whichever Steelers receiver, either Hines Ward or Mike Wallace, is matched up with Cromartie could have a big game and ultimately, could be the key to a Steelers victory.
If the Jets are to pull it off, they will have to put pressure on Ben Roethlisberger and get him down when they get him in their grasp. Roethlisberger makes his best plays when he can narrowly escape a sack, if the Jets can contain him they will be right where they need to be. On the other side of the ball, the Jets will need another strong performance from Mark Sanchez. The Steelers had the league’s best run defense by a wide margin, but can be beat at the cornerback position. The game isn’t entirely in Sanchez’s hands, but if he can’t make a play they have no chance.
This should be a very low scoring game, with both teams struggling to get to the upper teens. Nothing like a nice battle between two of the league’s toughest defenses to determine the AFC’s representative in the Super Bowl.