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01-03-2008, 11:59 PM
Steelers have advantage with playoff expertise
By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, January 4, 2008

On paper, Jacksonville is on a certifiable roll.

The Jaguars won six of their final eight games to finish 11-5, one game better than the Steelers, who host tomorrow night's AFC wild card playoff game at Heinz Field.

Even though Jacksonville appears to have all of the momentum -- the Steelers lost three of their final four games -- something tells me that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, rather than his counterpart, David Garrard, will be the difference-maker.

Physically, Garrard appears to have it all. He's big and athletic and has a cannon for an arm. He has 18 touchdown passes with only three interceptions to go with a prolific 102.2 passer rating.

Psychologically, though, Garrard has a lot to learn.

He's making his first start in the playoffs, which should make coach Jack Del Rio's hair stand on end.

It's almost a rite of passage that first-time starting quarterbacks in the playoffs, no matter how superbly they perform during the regular season, struggle once the stakes are raised.

57.8, 60.9, 55.5, 35.0, 70.4.

Those are the passer ratings for the first playoff games of Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Tom Brady.

They combined for two touchdown passes and seven interceptions in those five starts, posting a 2-3 record.

So, if you're the Steelers, and you're facing a quarterback like Garrard who's making his first start in the playoffs, what do you do?

If you're smart, you mix up your coverages, stack the line against the run and force Garrard to beat you with his arm because history is on your side.

"I hope he's feeling the pressure," Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said. "We definitely want to come after him and make him (make) mistakes."

The stakes are higher in the postseason. The pressure is greater. Teams know the opposing quarterback cold.

Roethlisberger is worth at least a touchdown because he knows what Garrard doesn't know. Roethlisberger overcame his first-time playoff struggles and quarterbacked the Steelers to a Super Bowl victory the following season.

"For us, playoff experience is a weapon," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, "because you understand what the feelings are like and you understand the moments and how special they are, particularly when you have a football team and men who have been a part of it and had it taken away and now they're back in it."

Garrard appeared briefly at the end of Jacksonville's playoff loss to New England two years ago. He believes the experience was helpful but he's also smart enough to realize it wasn't the real thing.

"It was garbage time, but the environment and the excitement of the game are going to be turned up," Garrard said of his mop-up duty against the Patriots. "I have watched the playoffs my whole life so I know how it turns up."

Better quarterbacks than Garrard have struggled in their first playoff start. Garrard not only has to defeat the Steelers, he must overcome history as well.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/s_545757.html

Galax Steeler
01-04-2008, 03:52 AM
If we can't mix up the coverage on deffense and make gerrard beat us with his arm then we will loose the game we need to stuff the running game as well.

rpv
01-04-2008, 08:12 AM
Heard on the radio that from 2003 the quaterbacks that are starting for the first time in the playoffs are 2-13. The only two that won are Jake Delhome( the yr that Carolina went to the Superbowl)and Ben(when we beat the Jets in his rookie season).

tony hipchest
01-04-2008, 08:25 AM
i saw a stat saying that since 2003, qb's making their debut playoff game (d. gerrard) are 2-13.

the only 2 to win their 1st playoff start are jake delhomme and big ben.

it doesnt spell doom for the jags but i remember during our sb run people thought the jags and leftwich would give the patriots a game in the 1st round. (jags were destroyed)