Steelers and Jets in showdown for the AFC championship

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The King is dead, who will be the new King?

Well the mighty kings of the NFL the New England Patriots were supposed to crush all challengers on their way to the Super Bowl title, but…that’s why they play the game.

The Patriots were upset by the New York Jets 28-21 to set up an AFC title game in Pittsburgh. So instead of having to travel to New England, the Steelers will enjoy home cooking as they host the Jets.

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GRINDING IT OUT—Rashard Mendenhall gets a block from teammate Heath Miller to pick up yards against the Ravens. Mendenhall only rushed for 46 yards, but scored two touchdowns in the Steelers 31- 24 win over the Ravens in the AFC Playoff game at Heinz Field. (Courier Photo/William McBride)

The Steelers took care of business first defeating their archrivals the Baltimore Ravens 31-24 in one of the most exciting games of the season, then they watched the Jets upset the Patriots. Even though the Jets are an outstanding team that beat the Steelers at Heinz Field, they are a much better matchup than the Patriots would have been, plus they get to stay at home.

How do they match up? Both teams’ strength is their defense. The Jets are led by Aliquippa native and Pitt grad Darrelle Revis, but he has plenty of help with in this no name defense that finished sixth in points allowed, third in total yards, sixth in passing yards and third in rushing yards allowed, making them one of the premier defensive units in football. They were able to hold the Steelers offense in check the first time they met this season.

The Steelers however have the best defensive unit in the NFL headed by Troy Polamalu and James Harrison. They finished first in fewest points allowed which is the most important stat, second in fewest yards allowed, 12th in passing yards and first in fewest rushing yards allowed. And even though they didn’t make the Pro Bowl, Casey Hampton is the best nose tackle in football and Brett Keisell had an All Pro season as well. Ziggy Hood, subbing for Aaron Smith, showed why he was a first round choice two years ago, and why he’s a future star.

The linebackers are second to none with LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and James Farrier joining Harrison. Ryan Clark has proven to be a very solid safety opposite Polamalu. Ike Taylor is one of the best in the game, playing the opposing teams’ best wide receiver, however Bryant McFadden has struggled at times.

But the key to the game, much like the Ravens game, is the quarterback play. Just like Ben Roethlisberger had to out play Joe Flacco in order for the Steelers to win, he must out play Mark Sanchez. Even though the Jets have a lot of outstanding weapons in Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, and LaDainian Tomlinson, the Steelers’ offense is much more potent if used properly. Against the Ravens, Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians finally utilized the skills of young talented and explosive receivers Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace along with veterans Hines Ward and Heath Miller.

This should be truly a great game because both teams are extremely talented but when it’s all said and done, and the smoke has cleared the Steelers should be on their way their eighth Super Bowl and third in the past six years. Wouldn’t it be nice to have two Black coaches in the Super Bowl again? Remember in 2004 it was Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith. Well if the Chicago Bears can pull off the victory against the Green Bay Packers next week it will be Mike Tomlin vs. Lovie Smith.

In the Steelers, Ravens game it was a tale of two halves that came down to Roethlisberger connecting on a 58-yard pass to rookie Brown with less than two minutes to go. The go-for-broke toss set up the winning touchdown in a rough-and-tumble 31-24 victory over the archrival Ravens.

“Let’s just chuck it deep,” Roethlisberger told offensive coordinator Bruce Arians just before he threw his biggest pass of the season. “If they pick it, it will be a pick way down there, just as good as a punt… I just throw it as far as I can.'”

“It was kind of amazing,” Brown said. “It kind of stuck to my shoulder.”

Rashard Mendenhall scored the winning TD from 2 yards out with 1:33 left.

While the Steelers trailed by two TDs at the half, it was the Ravens who fell apart in the second half as the team they love to beat most came back to knock them out of the postseason. The Steelers are 9-0 against division opponents in the postseason.

The Steelers were trailing 21-7 after turnovers created two Ravens touchdowns. But they came back with the help of three Baltimore turnovers in the third quarter. It was so bad, the Ravens’ minus-4 yards in offense wasn’t the worst of it; they ended with 28 yards in the second half.

Baltimore was outgained 263-126 and Joe Flacco was 16 of 30 for 125 yards.

“What better way to put the Ravens out of the tournament,” Ward said. “They keep asking for us and we keep putting them out of the tournament.

The Jets are headed to their second straight AFC Championship game after New York backed up its coach’s boasts with a 28-21 win over the Patriots.

Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes and the Jets sacked Tom Brady five times in the most-hyped of the weekend’s four postseason games following a week of verbal potshots from both teams. In the end, Ryan was true to his exuberant self. He ran down the sideline and celebrated with his players after Greene’s 16-yard score with 1:41 left. And, when the game was over, Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards did a backflip.

The Jets (13-5) kept Ryan’s prediction of a Super Bowl appearance alive. The Patriots (14-3) lost their third straight postseason game. Sanchez completed 16 of 25 passes for 194 yards and touchdowns to LaDainian Tomlinson, Edwards and Holmes. Brady, who played poorly for his second straight postseason game, was 29 for 45 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Now Sanchez looks to beat another of the NFL’s best quarterbacks—Pittsburgh’s Roethlisberger—after knocking off Peyton Manning, who won the NFL’s last two MVP awards, and Brady, who is a favorite to win his second in four years.

“He’s just now getting better and better and better,” Ryan said of Sanchez.

“Big Ben, he’s next on our list,” Edwards said.

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