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12-19-2010, 01:15 AM
Game 14 matchup: Steelers vs. Jets
Sunday, December 19, 2010
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Game plan

When Jets have the ball: The Jets have scored just nine points in the past two games and haven't scored a touchdown in nine quarters. They will be facing a defense that leads the AFC in fewest points allowed (198). QB Mark Sanchez has the lowest completion percentage (53.3) of any AFC quarterback and has thrown at least one interception in the past eight games. Sanchez likes to spread the ball to different receivers, but especially likes to dump the ball to RB LaDainian Tomlinson, who leads the team with 837 yards rushing and also has a team-high 49 receptions. Sanchez will look to make big plays with former Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes (41 catches, 620 yards) and Braylon Edwards (17.7 ypc, 6 TDs). Sanchez has been sacked 26 times while the Steelers are tied for the NFL lead with 39.

When Steelers have the ball: The offense has had problems with productivity and efficiency. The team has scored just two touchdowns in the past three games and the offense has committed 19 major penalties in the past four. But, despite the drought, the Steelers have moved the ball, averaging 358 yards, 21 first downs and 38 minutes in time of possession in those three games. QB Ben Roethlisberger continues to take a pounding behind an offensive line that has allowed him to be sacked 16 times in the past four games. He will face a Jets defense that has 32 sacks and relies on blitz pressure. LB Jason Taylor of Woodland Hills is the league's active career sack leader (1311???2), but his playing time has decreased and he is used only in pass-rush situations. Roethlisberger has thrown just one INT and the offense has committed just three turnovers in the past four games. The Jets have injury problems at safety, where they are down to Brodney Pool and recently signed Emanuel Cook.
Keep an eye on:

C Nick Mangold ... He's one of the best in the league, a two-time Pro Bowler who will be matched against NT Casey Hampton in a battle that will determine if the Jets can run against the Steelers' No. 1 rush defense. The Jets rank No. 6 in the league in rush offense and have rushed for more than 170 yards three times this season. But the Steelers have allowed only one team to gain more than 75 yards on the ground this season (New England, 103) and have allowed just one 100-yard rusher in the past 47 games.

The Jets have lost two in a row and scored just nine points in those games. This will be the first time they have been at Heinz Field since they lost an AFC first-round playoff game in overtime there after the 2004 season. In fact, the Jets have never won in Pittsburgh since the 1970 merger (0-7). But they are 5-1 on the road this season, with that lone loss coming Dec. 6 at New England. The Steelers, who are 16-3 all time against the Jets, have won four in a row and can clinch a playoff spot with several possible scenarios.
Keys to victory

To win, the Jets must ...

1 Bounce Ben. He might need max protection against a Jets defense that brings pressure from all angles.

2 Gain on the chains. They converted just six of 21 third-down chances against the Dolphins (29 percent), 11 of which were 10 yards or longer.

3 Not have a bad omen. They will be without RT Damien Woody (knee), the first time they will play without a starting offensive lineman since the last game of the 2007 season.

To win, the Steelers must ...

1 Tone down Holmes. The secondary has to keep their former teammate from making big plays after the catch.

2 Keep Sanchez off the Mark. His erratic performance in the past two games is a big reason for their touchdown drought.

3 Butt heads with Revis. The Steelers never worry about challenging a top defensive back, and they're not about to start now.
Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com.

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