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01-19-2011, 08:02 PM
Steelers report: Inside slant
The Sports Xchange
Jan. 19, 2011

The Steelers were pulling for the New York Jets to beat the Patriots and send the AFC Championship Game to Pittsburgh, but does that fall into the category of watch what you wish for?

Pittsburgh was 7-1 on the road during the regular season and just 5-3 at home, although the Steelers did add another victory to that pile when they beat Baltimore 31-24 in their opening playoff game.

Now come the road warrior Jets, 4-1 in the last two postseasons on the road, and the Steelers aren't quite invincible in AFC title games at home.

They are 1-2 in championship games at Heinz Field, and 1-3 in their past four title games at home going back to the 1997 season when John Elway and Denver beat them. Despite their unprecedented history of winning six Super Bowls (in seven trips), they are just 5-5 in AFC championship games at home, going back to their first one against Miami after the 1972 season, a loss.

Home, though, is where they prefer to be on Sunday.

"When you're at home you appreciate the fact you're at home, sleeping in your own bed if that's an option, driving to the stadium, being home 20 minutes after you walk out of the stadium," coach Mike Tomlin said. "Those are things that I enjoy about being at home.

"We enjoy the support of our crowd, but in terms of what goes on inside the white lines the team that makes the critical plays at the critical moments is going to win. Home or away is a factor. It's not the ultimate or deciding factor. I think the Jets have proven that emphatically over the last several weeks."

The Jets are trying to become the second sixth seed to win a Super Bowl after the Steelers did it in the 2005 season. The New York Giants took the same route as a wild-card team two years later, winning three on the road and then the Super Bowl.

However, the past five AFC Championship Games were won by the home team, including the 2008 Steelers.

"We appreciate being at home," Tomlin said. "If given the choice, we'd rather play at Heinz Field in front of our fans. They're a home-field advantage-worthy kind of a crowd, whether we are or not, so we're going to give them what they've got coming to them."

Steelers report: Strategy and personnel
The Sports Xchange
Jan. 19, 2011


-- QB Ben Roethlisberger, still wearing a steel-plated right shoe to protect a bone that was broken in November and still wearing a shield to protect his nose that was broken in December, has not been intercepted in his past 190 passes.

-- RB Rashard Mendenhall's two touchdown runs against Baltimore were one short of the Steelers' postseason record. His 13 touchdowns rushing in 2010 also fell one short of the team record.

-- WR Antonio Brown, who did not dress early in the season before he climbed up to the fourth receiver, is the team's leading receiver in the playoffs with 75 yards thanks to the 58-yard catch he had vs. Baltimore to set up Rashard Mendenhall's winning touchdown run.

-- TE Heath Miller missed the Dec. 19 game vs. the Jets with a concussion, one of two games he missed due to the injury. Saturday vs. Baltimore, Miller led the Steelers with five receptions, one for a touchdown.

-- CB Bryant McFadden has a lingering abdominal strain that has affected him for three weeks and caused him to leave the past two games early. He will not practice early this week and his status is uncertain.

-- SS Troy Polamalu, who played the past two games, will not practice until Friday, following a routine that began when his Achilles was injured in November.

-- K Shaun Suisham, who made 14 of his 15 field-goal tries in seven games with the Steelers, missed his first one in the postseason from 43 yards. He is now 4-of-8 in the postseason in his career.

-- OT Flozell Adams has recovered from the flu that struck him down during Saturday's game. He will return to start against the Jets.

-- WR Mike Wallace, who led the AFC with 22.0 yards per catch and had 10 touchdowns, was held to three catches for 20 yards, a 6.7-yard average, in the first playoff game of his career last Saturday.

-- TE Matt Spaeth, starting for injured Heath Miller, had three catches for 27 yards and one touchdown against the Jets Dec. 29. He also was Ben Roethlisberger's target twice in the end zone from the 10-yard at the end of the game, both incomplete.

-- DE Aaron Smith will start practicing on Wednesday, the first time since his triceps was torn Oct. 24. Coach Mike Tomlin said if Smith plays, he will not start.

-- LB James Harrison, who injured his right shoulder last Saturday but remained in the game, is not on the team's injury list this week. He had three sacks vs. Baltimore.

-- OT Jonathan Scott, who left last Saturday's game with an injury but returned to play later, is okay to go on Sunday, coach Mike Tomlin said.

-- S Will Allen, one of the Steelers' top special teams players, has a sprained knee and he could miss Sunday's game.

-- DE Ziggy Hood, who replaced Smith as the starter on the left side, has a sack in each of the past three games.


A-minus -- Against one of the NFL's better defenses, Ben Roethlisberger produced a 101.8 passer rating. He completed 19 of 32 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The one negative: He was sacked six times.

C-plus - The Steelers were unable to get much on Baltimore except when it counted - Rashard Mendenhall ran for two short touchdowns, a 1-yarder to open the scoring and a 2-yarder that ended the scoring and provided the winning points. Mendenhall was held to 46 yards on 20 carries and the Steelers had 71 as a team and a 2.3-yard average.

A - The Steelers rattled Joe Flacco, and so did his receivers by dropping passes. Flacco was 16 of 30 for only 125 yards. He was sacked five times for 34 yards, giving him a net under 100. He did throw one touchdown pass but he also threw one killer interception that set up the tying touchdown after Pittsburgh fell behind 21-7.

A - Baltimore had one good run all day and that was a 14-yard touchdown by Ray Rice. The Ravens were held to 21 yards on their other 17 carries for a total of 35 yards rushing and a 1.9-yard average. Rice finished with 32 yards and a 2.7-yard average and Willis McGahee had just four yards on four tries.

C-minus - They continue to be shaky and now kicker Shaun Suisham has joined them, missing wide right from 43 yards on his first try. The Steelers allowed a 52-yarder kickoff return to open the game that was reduced to 38 when Mike Tomlin challenged it. They gave up a 36-yard punt return that was a touchdown until a holding penalty was spotted. They managed very little returns of their own and their punter had a net of 34.3.

B - Mike Tomlin used up both his replay challenges in the first quarter, one successfully challenging a spot on a kickoff return and the other a failed challenge on a touchdown. Bruce Arians called a good game on offense on a day in which the running game wasn't going well. Dick LeBeau certainly outcoached Baltimore offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who came out throwing with a 14-point lead in the third quarter.

Steelers report: Notes, quotes
The Sports Xchange
Jan. 19, 2011

--Pittsburgh's fifth appearance in an AFC Championship Game in the past 10 years comes against a franchise the Steelers have dominated since the 1970 NFL merger.

The Steelers are 16-4 lifetime against the New York Jets including a 7-1 record in Pittsburgh. But here's the rub: The Jets have won the past two, including 22-17 last month for their first victory ever in Pittsburgh. And the only time they've met in the postseason, the Steelers needed overtime at Heinz Field after the 2005 season to win after New York's Doug Brien missed two field goals in the final two minutes that would have given them a victory.

So in some ways the Jets are on a mini-roll against the Steelers, who well remember their loss to them in Heinz Field last month.

"I'm sure we're going to take some things from it," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Hopefully we learn from the mistakes we made that got us beat, to correct them and not make them again."

In that game, the Steelers gave up a touchdown on the opening kickoff when Brad Smith ran it back 97 yards for a touchdown. They also allowed a late safety that meant they could not kick a field goal to tie when their long drive at the end of the game succumbed at the Jets' 10-yard line when two Ben Roethlisberger passes into the end zone missed their marks.

Few expect the kind of trash talking this week that occurred between New York and New England last week. These two teams just aren't as familiar with one another, having played only twice in the past five seasons.

"The only story line we have is six Lombardi Trophies," Steelers safety Ryan Clark said.

He stated it in a matter of fact way, but the Jets might take that as a shot because they haven't even appeared in a Super Bowl since 1969, when Joe Namath predicted and then pulled an upset of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

-- Although there were an extra 1,300 temporary seats at Heinz Field (from the NHL Winter Classic game) sold, the attendance of 64,879 for Saturday's playoff vs. Baltimore was nowhere near close to a record and 700 fewer than for a 2009 regular-season game against the Vikings, when 65,597 attended without the extra seats. All games are sold out, so there were at least 1,500 no-shows.

-- The Jets rushed for 106 yards against the Steelers last month at Heinz Field and while that is not that much, it represents the most against them this season. The Steelers led the NFL by far in stopping the run, allowing 62.8 yards a game. The only other team to top 100 against Pittsburgh was New England with 103.

-- The playoff game vs. Baltimore brought in an estimated $19.2 million to the city of Pittsburgh in direct spending.

"He's a special quarterback and he's done that his whole career. He's never mentioned among the top quarterbacks for some reason, but I don't know why that's the case. He gets the job done." -- Tight end Heath Miller on Ben Roethlisberger, who ran his postseason record to 9-2:

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01-19-2011, 08:10 PM
"They are 1-2 in championship games at Heinz Field, and 1-3 in their past four title games at home going back to the 1997 season when John Elway and Denver beat them. Despite their unprecedented history of winning six Super Bowls (in seven trips), they are just 5-5 in AFC championship games at home, going back to their first one against Miami after the 1972 season, a loss."

OMG, I was thinking about this very thing last night. We actually beat Denver that year at home in the reg. season, only to have Elway and Rod Smith beat us at home in the playoffs. Kordell was running the show that year. And don't forget how SD beat us at home too. Man, I remember these games like they were yesterday.

Lost to SD, beat the Colts next year, lost to Denver, lost to the Pats in 01-02 (I hate Troy Brown), lost to em again in Ben's rookie year, memories, memories.

01-19-2011, 08:20 PM
Shannon Sharpe was huge that 97 game...That game was ours, we would have spanked GB with Bettis ..We were better than the Pats in 01.....They were better than us the second time around BR7's rookie year.