View Full Version : Jets’ Running Game to Collide With Steelers’ Defense

01-21-2011, 02:35 PM
Jets’ Running Game to Collide With Steelers’ Defense
Jason Cohn/Reuters

Published: January 20, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Jets want to run the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers, want to showcase their ground-and-pound philosophy, want to control the clock.

The Steelers’ defense does not boast a nickname, like its Steel Curtain predecessor of the 1970s. It does not have an epic trash-talker like Jets linebacker Bart Scott. Yet this defense, without much fanfare, with more role players than superstars, ranks among the best groups of run-stuffers in N.F.L. history.

“It’s not just impressive,” said Jets defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, a 14-year veteran. “It’s historic.”

Since the N.F.L. expanded to 16 regular-season games in 1978, six teams have held opponents under an average of 70 rushing yards for an entire season. In 2000, the Baltimore Ravens set the current standard, at 60.6 yards allowed.

This Steelers’ group finished 2.2 yards per game behind those Ravens and 1.2 yards behind where the Minnesota Vikings’ defense finished in 2006. The common thread between those teams? The coaches who will meet on Sunday in the A.F.C. championship game at Heinz Field.

Mike Tomlin was the defensive coordinator in 2006 with Minnesota, and he is the head coach of these Steelers. His counterpart, Rex Ryan, was the defensive line coach for the 2000 Ravens. Apparently, these two are experts when it comes to grounding ground games to a halt.

The Jets finished third in run defense this season, but their average yards yielded was 90.9, underscoring how dominant the Steelers’ run defense was compared to the rest of the league. They finished almost 30 yards better than Chicago (90.1) and the Jets. Not surprisingly, those are three of the four teams remaining in the playoffs. (Green Bay finished 18th against in the run.)

So how did Pittsburgh do it? With a head coach who possesses a defensive background in Tomlin and perhaps the most respected defensive coordinator in football, Dick LeBeau. With an unpredictable, unified scheme, 11 players pointed at the ball, swarming in yellow and black like an angry bunch of hornets.

“They’re pretty athletic off the edges with their linebackers,” right guard Brandon Moore said. “They get off blocks well. And they play off each other well. They’ve really got a good, attacking style.”

Few teams achieved much success in running the football this season against the Steelers. One that did, though, is the Jets. In their Week 15 victory, in December at Heinz Field, no Jet rushed for more than 49 yards (LaDainian Tomlinson), but collectively the Jets picked up 106 yards on the ground.

Mark Sanchez gained 7 of those yards on a touchdown scamper late in the third quarter. That tied the score and set the stage for the Jets’ late heroics in their 22-17 victory.

“Any time you can get 100 yards against them, you feel like you’ve got something off your back,” Moore said. “They’re looking at it like they’re on their heels a little bit, because they’re not used to that. You feel like you can do more, because they’re pressing a little bit. There’s a lot more you can do if you feel comfortable.”

Of course, the Steelers’ best defensive player, the star safety Troy Polamalu, missed that game with an Achilles’ tendon injury. He will play Sunday, and likely in typical hair-on-fire fashion. This week, his former teammate, Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, called Polamalu the best player he had ever seen.

The Jets, meanwhile, returned to their ground-and-pound philosophy in recent weeks. Against Indianapolis, in the first round of the playoffs, they controlled the clock with their running game, so much that Peyton Manning and the Colts offense had all of three possessions in the second half.

Running back Shonn Greene said the key for the Jets’ ground game would be ball security. He noted that the Steelers have “guys pulling at it and tugging at it,” that “they go after the ball.” If the Jets secure the ball, if their offensive line continues to play at the highest level, it remains possible they will run the ball against these Steelers.

Possible is the key word there.

“We have to be able to execute,” Greene said.


Jason Taylor returned to practice in a limited role Thursday, after he sustained a concussion against New England on Sunday. Taylor said he felt fine and would practice in full Friday.

Dave Caldwell contributed reporting.

01-21-2011, 02:37 PM
You know something, I'm more worried about that than their passing game.

I would hate the very thing we're good at stopping beat us Sunday. That and ST.

01-21-2011, 02:52 PM
The Jets had a whopping 106 yards rushing (neither LT or Greene went over 50 individually) on 27 carries for a 3.93 ypc average.

As a total offense the Jets amassed a whopping 276 yards

And that was without Polamalu

On the flip side the Steelers ran for 146 yards on 25 attempts for a 5.84 ypc average.

As a total offense the Steelers amassed 410 yards.

And that was without Heath Miller

Of course one could argue that Miller isn't as integral a cog as Polamalu is, but Spaeth did have two key drops, one was for the last chance TD that would have actually won us the game in the closing seconds.

The Jets won the game because they scored 9 points off of defense and special teams. Can't count on points like that every game.

I like our chances a lot.