The AFC championship game on Sunday between the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers will be a bruising battle between two storied franchises.
The differences between these two teams on the surface couldn’t be more obvious. Jets coach Rex Ryan is loud and some critics say obnoxious, while Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is quiet and methodical.
The big and burly quarterback for Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger, is a two-time NFL champion who has been steeped in controversy for his off-the-field antics.
Jets sophomore QB Mark Sanchez has been a model citizen on and off the field, and his soft-spoken leadership has gone almost unrecognised.
Pittsburgh running back Rashard Mendenhall is at the beginning of his promising professional career as a featured back, while LaDanian Tomlinson is winding down his 10-year first-ballot Hall of Fame career. But that is where the differences of these two teams end.
These are two clubs that rely on their defences for turnovers, field position and wins, although their offenses have come alive of late.
The Steelers linebacker core of Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison have been marvellous in the postseason. Harrison recorded three big-time sacks in the Ravens game. And Troy Polamalu continues to be a one-of-a-kind defensive weapon.
For the Jets, they rose to the challenge of stifling the best offensive team in football last week. The Patriots couldn’t score in the first half, and the Jets ‘D’ made all the big plays down the stretch, and Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie continued to shut down receivers.
Rex Ryan challenges his team to always play “Jets football”, a phrase that he refers to as the ideal way to play the game. This year, the Jets have. They’re entering their second AFC championship game in as many years.
The Steelers won a title the year before last and in 2006. They’ve climbed to the top of the mountain and know what the air tastes like. And they’re ready for more.
Although the Jets are poised for the big stage, this battle will end with the Steelers heading to Super Bowl for the third time in the last six seasons.
It’s just too bad they will meet the great Chicago Bears, destined for their first Super Bowl title since the great Mike Ditka led team of 1985.
Prediction: Steelers 23, Jets 19