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posted by nypostClick here to commentNovember 18, 2007 -- Let's assess today's Jets-Steelers matchup at Giants Stadium.

The Steelers' defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL in fewest points (14), yards (229.4), rushing yards (72), passing yards (157.4) and first downs (13.4) per game.

The Steelers' offense is led by QB Ben Roethlisberger, ranked second in the NFL in passing, and RB Willie Parker, who leads the AFC in rushing.

The Jets' offense is borderline anemic, ranked 29th. Their defense is ranked 30th.

If you're thinking this sounds like a daunting task, you're not alone.

"Everybody has a weakness," Jets LB David Bowens said. "They do have a lot of strong points, but to get to their weaknesses you have to break down the strong points."

The following is a breakdown of how this game will unfold:


Jets LB Davis Harris vs. Steelers RB Willie Parker. Parker is second in the NFL in rushing; Harris has 34 tackles in the past two games. The Jets have to slow the Steelers' running game to have a chance to win.


The Jets' rushing game has been inconsistent and - at times - nonexistent. Though Thomas Jones (606 yards, 3.8-yard average) is seventh in the AFC in yards, it's the quietest 606 yards you have seen. He has two 100-yard games this season and hasn't scored a touchdown as a Jet. Leon Washington, for all of his explosiveness on kickoff returns, averages 3.3-yards per carry and has not broken any big plays. The Steelers have the No. 2-ranked rushing offense in the NFL with 1,363 yards and a 4.4-yard average. Parker's backup, Najeh Davenport, has a 5.3-yard average.

The Jets' inconsistent running attack will face the Steelers' top-ranked run defense, which allows 72 yards per game. The Jets' run defense is last in the NFL, allowing 1,370 yards, a 4.4-yard average, and 10 touchdowns.


Steelers PK Jeff Reed is 14-of-15 on field goal attempts this season with his miss coming on a 65-yarder. Reed, who makes his living kicking in one of the toughest places in the league to make field goals, has made 18 consecutive kicks on the road. Jets' Mike Nugent, who has missed five of 18 attempts, has settled down of late, making eight of his past nine attempts, with the miss a 54-yarder.


Though the Jets have been an abysmal fourth-quarter team, the Steelers have been dominant then. The Jets have been outscored 91-38 in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers have outscored their opponents, 76-38. The Jets, losing leads to the Redskins, Bengals and Giants, have been outscored 142-65 in the second half after outscoring opponents 94-83 in the first half. The Steelers have outscored their opponents 124-65 in the second half.


19 1/2. That's the number of sacks the Steelers' linebackers have posted. The team has 25.


The Steelers have controlled the ball for almost 10 minutes more per game than their opponents (34:59-25:01).


The Jets' average of 4.0 penalties per game is the third fewest in the NFL.



JETS - 13

This, quite simply, is a terrible match-up for the Jets - everything the Steelers do well the Jets don't handle well. The Jets' run defense will struggle to stop Willie Parker. Thomas Jones will struggle to gain yards on the Pittsburgh defense. The Jets' weak pass rush (nine sacks) will not pressure Ben Roethlisberger.


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posted by nypostClick here to comment November 18, 2007 -- ON the way to a likely 3-13 mark, the Jets can let their consciences be their guides.

Their remaining opponents, including the 7-2 Steelers today, hold a 39-24 record, and the Dolphins are represented in nine of those losses. The Jets don't have to quit on their feet to get a top-three draft pick, which they can use to take defensive end Chris Long, defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, or linebacker Keith Rivers, if not trade down for two first-rounders they clearly need.

Opportunity knocks. Because the Jets have turned bad and require more than a couple players to get good, their sold-out stadium now will forgive them for getting worse on the way to becoming terrific.

The only people who think you can't rebuild in New York don't remember the Mets not breaking 70 wins from 1977-83 before winning the World Series in 1986, the Giants having eight consecutive losing seasons before drafting Lawrence Taylor in 1981, or the Yankees averaging 71 wins from 1990-92.

In fact, there were four area franchises in the past 30 years that won multiple championships within five-year periods. The Giants (1986, 1990), the Yankees (1996, 1998-2000), plus the Islanders, who debuted as the worst team in NHL history eight seasons before the first of four consecutive Stanley Cups (1980-83); and the Devils (1995, 2000, 2003), who were a laughingstock their first five years at the Meadowlands.

As the Rangers were failing to go out of business while missing the playoffs seven straight years before their current rebirth, the main complaint wasn't impatience with a youth movement but their signing of too many over-the-hill mercenaries. Now that the reality of the Jets taking advantage of a soft 2006 schedule has set in and Woody Johnson's faith in Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum is apparently unwavering, they can scorch the earth to hopefully rise like the Phoenix.

The main priority for 2008 should be keeping Kellen Clemens alive while he learns. Fortunately, in D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, the Jets already have drafted two linemen who can protect the quarterback, plus traded for a running back who can ease Clemens' burden.

Thomas Jones (signed for four more years), Clemens, Mangold, Ferguson, Jones and Jerricho Cotchery are the short list of absolute keepers on this offense, perhaps extended to Leon Washington and Brad Smith for their athletic potential. Laveranues Coles is 29, not likely to be in his prime as Clemens fully matures, and would bring back a pick the Jets obviously need.

The core of this 29th-ranked defense is rotted, leaving Kerry Rhodes, Darrelle Revis, David Harris the only players worth keeping, making Dewayne Robertson, Shaun Ellis and Jonathan Vilma (once he heals) worth more to somebody's else's 4-3 defense than the 3-4 with which Mangini ultimately will live or die.

Fact is, the Jets, long-suffering as their martyred fans like to label themselves, last season made the playoffs for the fifth time in nine years. In today's NFL, that's a decent run. It should be remembered that run came out after 3-13 and 1-15 Rich Kotite disasters that brought Keyshawn Johnson, who got the Jets to the 1998 AFC title game before being turned into a surplus of picks that helped become Ellis, John Abraham and Chad Pennington.

That era is over and all remnants of it should be recycled. The Patriots - three Super Bowl titles in four years secured, and three seasons later looking better than ever - have proved you can beat the salary cap and build a dynasty.

After all, that is the object of the whole exercise. Look at the teams that passed long tests of time. The Steelers were 1-13 three years before beginning their run of the 1970s, and the 49ers were 2-14 three seasons before taking their first Super Bowl in 1981. The Cowboys, 1-15 in Jimmy Johnson's first season, captured three Super Bowls in the 1990s.

So this Jets disaster becomes an opportunity, if managed boldly.


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November 18, 2007 -- Jets defensive players had better beware of an unlikely assassin wearing a Steelers uniform today.

Hines Ward, the best receiver on the Steelers, might be an even better blocker. Ward, who leads the team with 35 receptions, has taken out his share of defensive players with punishing blocks, too.

He nearly sent Ravens Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed to the emergency room two games ago.

"He's impressive to watch from that (blocking) aspect," Jets WR Justin McCareins said. "It's a good example for players to show that receivers can carry that toughness, and be someone for defenders to watch out for.

"He's got a knack for it, finding guys to hit. He's a good hitter. He could be a defensive player when it comes to hitting people."

LB David Bowens said every defensive player needs to be aware of Ward.

"It doesn't matter who it is, he'll put his head down in there," Bowens said. "That's what impresses me about him. He's a receiver who blocks like a fullback."

S Kerry Rhodes said Ward is one of the best blocking receivers.

"The thing that makes him the best is he doesn't mind doing it, he likes to do it," Rhodes said. "It comes from being willing to do it. He likes to mix it up and he's put some people out. He makes you think about coming down there and trying to stop the run early."


The Jets have lost 15 of the 17 regular season games they have played against the Steelers.

The prior time the teams met was in the AFC divisional playoff round in 2005 in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers won 20-17 in overtime. The previous regular-season meeting was in 2004, won by the Steelers, 17-6.

In 2003, the Jets won the prior meeting at Giants Stadium, 6-0, when Curtis Martin ran for 174 yards in the snow. Martin will be honored at halftime today.


Cotchery has caught at least four passes in 15 consecutive regular-season games, the second-longest active steak. ... Bowens on Steelers' backup RB Najeh Davenport, who has 279 yards, three TDs and a 5.3-yard rushing average: "I don't think he's been tackled yet. The guy just keeps running." ... The Steelers defense has yielded one 100-yard rusher in 59 games (Colts' Edgerrin James, November 2005), none in the past 34 games. In that 59-game span, 24 Pro Bowl running backs have tried and failed to eclipse 100 yards rushing on Pittsburgh.

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Jets meet Steelers for first time since Doug Brien's kicking disaster in 2005



Sunday, November 18th 2007, 4:00 AM


Jets fans all remember Jan. 15, 2005 - a day that will live in infamy because of Doug Brien's two missed field goals in a 20-17 playoff loss at Pittsburgh.


Kellen Clemens gets another crack at getting his first NFL win Sunday against the Steelers.

The haunting memories came rushing back to Brandon Moore as he studied tape of the Steelers' home victory last week over the Browns. The familiar backdrop transported his thoughts to Jan. 15, 2005, a date seared into the souls of every Jets player and every fan.

The day a near-monumental upset turned into a loss for the ages.

The Jets came within inches of advancing to the AFC Championship Game - literally, inches - but fell to the Steelers in overtime, 20-17, on Doug Brien's two missed field goals in the final 1:58 of regulation. The first try, from 47 yards, hit the lower-left corner of the goal post, where the crossbar meets the upright. For the Jets, it's where agony met heartbreak.

Today, the Jets face the Steelers for the first time since that fateful day along the Three Rivers. Even though this game will be played at the Meadowlands, it still has re-opened an old wound for some of the 14 holdovers on the Jets' roster. It also has reinforced a painful lesson that smacks them in the face every week:

There are no gimme seasons in the NFL.

"You realize how hard it is every year to get to that position," said Moore, a first-year starter at guard in 2004. "You can't take it for granted. That's what crossed my mind as I watched the tape. No year is guaranteed."

Despite the divisional-playoff loss to the Steelers, the Jets thought they were built for sustained success. Indeed, the foundation appeared to be in place. They had the league rushing champion, Curtis Martin, and their defense - led by rookie linebacker Jonathan Vilma - was young, aggressive and opportunistic.

"When you have a good team and you come close one year," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said, "you figure you'll be able to build off that and take it further."

Not quite. The Jets were decimated by injuries in 2005 and crashed to 4-12. Out went Herm Edwards and in came Eric Mangini, who revitalized the franchise last season with a 10-6 record and a wild-card berth.

Now they're back to being the Bad Jets, 1-8 with a six-game losing streak. Martin is retired - he'll be honored today at halftime - and Vilma, recuperating from season-ending knee surgery, maybe counting the days until he's traded. The defense, overhauled before the 2004 season, is the Joan Rivers of football, headed for yet another facelift. Brien never kicked for the Jets again.

Since that Iron City debacle, the Jets have lost 26 of 41 games, prompting some of the older players to wonder when - if? - they will again get that close to a championship.

"In this league," defensive end Shaun Ellis said, "you don't get too many opportunities like that."

Reflecting on the 2004 playoff run, Moore remembers veteran guard Pete Kendall telling everyone it was his first postseason, how it took him nine agonizing years to finally make it. Appreciate the moment, Kendall told the younger players.

"You're like,

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The Line: Steelers by 9.5

TV: Ch. 2 (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)

Radio: WEPN 1050-AM, WABC 770-AM (Bob Wischusen, Marty Lyons). In Spanish on 1280 WADO-AM (C.L. Smith Muniz, Kenneth Garay)

Forecast: Partly sunny but windy. High of 45.

Injury Impact

Laveranues Coles returns at WR after missing a game with his second concussion in 10 months. The Jets placed FB Stacy Tutt (knee) on injured reserve. They signed OLB Jason Trusnik from the practice squad. The Steelers placed FS Ryan Clark on injured reserve after his spleen was removed. Playing in Denver's high altitude last month triggered a sickle cell condition that put Clark in intense pain. QB Ben Roethlisberger has been playing with a sore hip that doesn't seem to have slowed him down.

Feature Matchup

QB Kellen Clemens vs. S Troy Polamalu and Dick LeBeau's defense: This week presents Clemens with another mental challenge as he goes up against LeBeau's zone blitzes and Polamalu's pre-snap movements. With enough up front to shut off the Jets' running game, the Steelers will be free to use Polamalu in a variety of ways to create havoc and confusion in the secondary. Clemens must identify him on every snap. RB Willie Parker vs. LB David Harris and the Jets' run defense: Harris has done a pretty good job of taking on offensive linemen since Jonathan Vilma was lost but the Jets' run defense remains what it is, the worst in the league, and about to face the AFC's leading rusher. The Steelers don't pound it as much as they once did with Roethlisberger playing at such a high level, but in this case, they will try to take advantage of a defense that gives up sizeable yardage on first down and go from there. Parker's big-play ability also can't be ignored.

Scout Says

"The threat of Leon Washington on kick returns has to scare the Steelers. They've been sloppy on coverage (27th in NFL on KOs) and inexcusably allowed a TD (to Joshua Cribbs) on what was a busted play against the Browns. The Jets will be forced to blitz because they have to find some way to get the Steeler offense off balance. But (Ben) Roethlisberger is having his best season and part of it is his great ability to escape pressure and make things happen, either running or throwing, when he's out of the pocket. The tight end, Heath Miller, has become his favorite receiver and the Steelers will try to find ways to get him open."


The Jets have had a bye week to forget about the previous nine weeks and give Clemens more time to get comfortable. But the Steelers have historically been a brutal matchup. Pittsburgh dominates the series, 15-2, and has allowed the Jets' offense a total of one touchdown in the past nine games. Both Steeler losses have come on the road vs. teams they figured to dominate (Cardinals and Broncos). But last week's loss by the Colts should provide extra motivation as they push for a first-week playoff bye.


7-2. The Steelers' record against first-year starting QBs since 2004. Good luck, Kellen Clemens.


STEELERS, 21-13 The Steelers are just too good a team.

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Leon holds Jets' return ticket

Sunday, November 18, 2007



To the untrained eye, it looks like chaos.

Twenty-two bodies running, half of them going one way and half traveling in the opposite direction, most of them headed for an inevitable collision. That's what a kickoff looks like to some people.

But not to Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff. In fact, he doesn't even agree with the description of it as organized chaos.

"If you watched the tape of [our returns], I don't think you'd feel that way," Westhoff said. "It's certainly organized."

Organized and orchestrated quite well by Westhoff, who has been coaching special teams in the NFL since 1982. It's not a coincidence that the Jets' kickoff returns haven't missed a beat despite the fact that 2006 AFC Pro Bowl kickoff returner Justin Miller was lost for the season with a knee injury in Week 2.

Actually, Leon Washington has been even better. Miller had two kickoff returns for touchdowns last season, and Washington has brought back three the distance this season. And just as Miller led the NFL in average yardage with 28.3 last season, Washington leads the NFL this year at 33.5.

"You want to dream big," said Washington. "Whenever I get the ball in my hands, I feel like I have an opportunity to score a touchdown."

He may have an even better-than-average chance of doing it again today when the Jets play host to Pittsburgh and its reeling special teams. The Steelers allowed a 100-yard touchdown on a kickoff return by Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs last week as well as a 90-yarder by Cribbs to set up another touchdown.

"They're probably working hard this week at not giving up those plays again," Washington said of the Steelers. "I'm sure they'll be ready for us, considering what we've done so far this year."

Certainly it's something the Jets can be proud of in an otherwise dismal season.

"Our return game creates a lot of opportunities for our offense," said linebacker David Bowens, who blocks on kickoff returns. "Whenever we don't break one or create a big play that way, we feel disappointed."

It all starts with Westhoff, who draws up returns much the same way an offensive coordinator designs a running play.

"I have a base [game] plan and then we go from there," said Westhoff, whose schemes for individual opponents are based on their tendencies.

"I have quite a few base returns and then we just alter them or adjust them based on not only what we're seeing, but conditions. Field conditions, wind conditions, how they're kicking it, what personnel they're playing. There's a lot of things involved with it. It's one of my favorite things to do."

On Washington's most recent touchdown, a 86-yarder against the Redskins, he caught the ball on the right side of the field. Blocks by Chris Baker, Matt Chatham and the since-released Rashid Washington helped seal off defenders on the right outside, and then David Harris' block sealed off the left outside. At that point, it was a footrace that Washington easily won.

"The guys do a real good job of blocking," Washington said. "I do the easy part. It's a lot of fun. We trust Coach Westhoff. He's been doing this thing for a long time. I'm just privileged, honestly, to have that guy coaching me. He's coached so many guys who have played in the Pro Bowl. He understands that part of the game.''

And Westhoff understands how to turn seeming chaos into order.

BRIEF: The Jets placed fullback Stacy Tutt (knee) on injured reserve Saturday, and promoted linebacker Jason Trusnik from the practice squad to fill the roster spot.

E-mail: pelzman@northjersey.com

* * *

Jets (1-8) vs. Steelers (7-2)

Giants Stadium, today, 4 o'clock

TV: Ch. 2 Radio: ESPN-AM 1050, WABC-AM 770

Line: Steelers by 9½

What's at stake?

Jets: This is a chance to snap a six-game losing streak and not match the seven-game skid they had in 2005. Aside from the score, the Jets obviously are looking for continuing maturation by second-year QB Kellen Clemens, who showed the ability to make plays with his arm and his legs in his second start two weeks ago.

Steelers: Pittsburgh is trying to extend a three-game winning streak and maintain at least a two-game lead in the AFC Central. The Steelers also are looking to continue their mastery of the Jets. Pittsburgh is 15-2 all time against the Jets, including an overtime playoff victory in 2005.

Key matchups

Steelers RB Willie Parker vs. Jets' rush defense

The Jets are 32nd in the NFL against the run and in their last game, allowed 196 yards rushing to Washington's Clinton Portis, who hadn't rushed for more than 98 yards in a game this season until then. Parker is second in the NFL in rushing with 873 yards and rushed for 105 yards in a win over the Browns last week.

Jets KR Leon Washington vs. Steelers' kickoff unit: Washington already has a team-record three kickoff returns for touchdowns this season and a fourth certainly is within the realm of possibility. The Pittsburgh kickoff coverage has struggled mightily. Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs returned a kickoff 100 yards for a TD against the Steelers last week and he had a 90-yarder to set up another TD.

How they'll win

Jets: The bye week results in a terrific game plan, much as it did when the Jets pulled off a road upset of New England after their bye week in 2006. Clemens & Co. are able to find some way to dent the contemporary Steel Curtain, the No. 1 defense in the NFL, while the defense makes major strides after being shredded by Washington two weeks ago.

Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, the second-leading rusher among quarterbacks in the AFC, scrambles for yardage and also makes some big throws on the run, while AFC-leading rusher Parker enjoys his encounter with the league's worst run defense. The defense stops the Jets' inconsistent ground game and is thus able to send more blitzes at Clemens, who makes a youthful mistake or two under that pressure.

-- J.P. Pelzman

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Young coaches Mangini, Tomlin take different paths

BY TOM ROCK | tom.rock@newsday.com

November 18, 2007

Eric Mangini finally is coaching against someone in his own age demographic.

Why, then, does it not appear that way?

Mangini was hired to be the Jets' coach in January 2006, and his success in his first season as a 35-year-old headmaster certainly helped open the door for other whippersnappers to make their way into the coaching fraternity. During this past offseason, the Steelers hired Mike Tomlin, 34, to be their coach.

Today, two of the youngest coaches in the league will face each other. And Mangini is the elder statesman.

"There are two younger guys now," said Mangini, now 36, referring to Tomlin and 32-year-old Lane Kiffin of the Raiders. "So, just bumping up the old- age ladder."

Tomlin said age is not a factor in determining wins and losses and quipped: "They don't give us any diaper discounts."

But while Tomlin seems to take advantage of his age proximity with players and doesn't try to hide it - in one conversation with New York reporters this past week, he flashed a hip, up-to-date vocab that included phrases such as "football junkie" and "ridiculous competitor," and he's been seen high-fiving players and fans alike at Heinz Field - Mangini seems to have a stronger grip on his inner-child.

They may be similar in age, but one has the exuberance of youth while the other is an old soul. One enjoys eating with the kids, the other wants to have a place at the grown-up table.

"He's been fun and he's not a yeller or a screamer," Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of his guy. "He's not going to scream at you when you make a mistake, and you want to win for a guy like that. The players like that."

Both can be described as being cool with their players. For Tomlin, it's a Fonzie-like coolness that gives him both the admiration and respect of a big brother. Mangini's coolness, like an air conditioner, can be measured in BTUs. No one on the Jets would ever use the word Roethlisberger used for his coach: fun. It's all business for Mangini.

Jets fullback Darian Barnes, who was a rookie on the Bucs team that won a Super Bowl when Tomlin was a defensive backs coach, noticed the disparate attitudes.

"Their personality types are definitely different just in terms of how they approach people," Barnes said, "but in both there are successful ways in how to deal with players."

These two coaches also are apples from warring trees. Mangini's coaching lineage reaches back to Ted Marchibroda and Bill Parcells, and he's a direct descendant of Bill Belichick. Tomlin, meanwhile, comes from the Tony Dungy arboretum. It was Tomlin, in fact, who replaced Herman Edwards on Dungy's staff when Edwards took the job with the Jets.

A few weeks ago, Dungy and Belichick hooked up in what many termed a battle between good and evil. Now their scions are about to pick up the fight of differing philosophies, approaches and techniques.

Judging by their young ages, they could be going at it down the road a few times as well.

Steelers at Jets, 4:05 p.m.

TV: Ch. 2Radio: WABC (770), WEPN (1050)


James Harrison, LB

An undrafted free agent from Kent State who spent time between the active roster and the practice squad, Harrison is in his first year as a full-time starter and leads the team with 6 1/2 sacks. He had 3 1/2 against the Ravens in a Monday night game in which he also had an interception and forced three fumbles. "James is a guy who is seizing the moment and taking advantage of an opportunity," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "[He's] a guy that has traveled the long road, a guy that's been cut a few times, a guy that appreciates where he's at and a guy that's blue collar and comes to work every day. You root for a guy like that."

Before his standout MNF performance, Harrison was best known as the player who bodyslammed a drunk Cleveland Browns fan who ran onto the field in 2005. So Jets players and fans need to be wary of this guy.


Steelers 20, Jets 17

AFC Divisional Playoffs

Jan. 15, 2005

This is the game that forced the Jets to draft kicker Mike Nugent in the second round a few months later. Doug Brien missed two field-goal attempts in the final 2:02 of regulation, including one as time expired, and the Steelers won it in overtime. It also was a glaring example of poor clock management and play-calling by the Jets. They had third-and-8 from the 23 with six seconds left and two timeouts, but instead of trying to get closer for Brien, Chad Pennington took a knee and Brien pulled his 43-yard attempt to the left. He missed an earlier 47-yarder that hit the crossbar. Jerome Bettis ran for 101 yards and a touchdown and Hines Ward caught 10 passes for 105 yards and the touchdown that tied the score at 17 in the fourth quarter. Jonathan Vilma had 17 tackles for the Jets.


The Jets have a short week and travel to Dallas for a Thanksgiving tilt against the Cowboys.

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Jets-Steelers Gameday

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Star-Ledger Staff


QB Kellen Clemens will face a blitz-happy Steelers defense that is first in the NFL in total defense (allowing 229.4 yards per game), run defense (72.0 yards), pass defense (157.4 yards) and fewest points allowed (14.0). Pittsburgh has 25 sacks, tied for first in the AFC. WR Laveranues Coles (concussion) is back after sitting out one game. RB Thomas Jones is going against a defense that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 34 consecutive games, dating to 2005.


QB Ben Roethlisberger (22 TDs, seven INTs and 18 rushes for 135 yards) is doing it all, as he showed by rushing for a 30-yard touchdown last week against the Browns. RB Willie Parker (873 yards and two TDs) is second in the NFL in rushing. WRs Hines Ward (35 catches, 382 yards, four TDs) and Santonio Holmes (34-589-6) and TE Health Miller (31-421-6) are quite a trio. Six-time Pro Bowl LG Alan Faneca anchors the offensive line.


Leon Washington leads the NFL with a 33.5-yard average and three TDs on kickoff returns, only the 11th player in NFL history to return three kickoffs for scores in a single season. Pittsburgh ranks 27th in the NFL in kickoff coverage, giving up a 90-yarder (to the 3-yard line) and 100-yarder for a TD last week to the Browns' Joshua Cribbs. K Jeff Reed has hit 14 of 15 FGs. KR Allen Rossum (25.7-yard average and one TD on kickoffs, 6.5-yard average on punts) has been a disappointment.




Last season, the defense made a stunning reversal after the bye, helping the Jets to a 6-2 record and allowing just 12.8 points per game over the final eight games (second-fewest in the NFL). Before the bye, the Jets were 4-4 and yielding 24.1 points per game.



Clemens is a tough customer but tends to hang in the pocket too long. He faced a similar defense in his first NFL start against the Ravens and played well, despite being sacked four times and facing heavy pressure all game. The Steelers' zone blitzes are extremely effective and tough to pick up, meaning the Jets' blockers must communicate well.



Pittsburgh has always liked to beat up its opponents, and those types of teams tend to give the Jets problems. It'll be interesting to see if the Jets abandon the running game early and if the Steelers simply punish the Jets with theirs.



Teams have been taking aim at Revis, a Pittsburgh native, in recent games, although he came up with his first career interception against the Bills in Week 8. Slot receivers have given him the most trouble.


The Steelers lead the all-time series (including the postseason), 16-2, and have won seven of the past eight meetings.


The last time the two teams played was in a 2004 AFC divisional playoff game when ex-Jets K Doug Brien missed two potential game-winning field goals (43 and 47 yards) in the final 2:02 of regulation in a crushing 20-17 overtime loss at Heinz Field. ... Former Jets RB Curtis Martin, who will be honored at halftime today, once rushed for 174 yards on 30 carries in the snow in a 6-0 victory at Giants Stadium in 2003. It was one of his best games as a Jet.


Steelers 27, Jets 17

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Tomlin is man of Steel, but unlike Mangini, he bends when it comes to his defenses

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Star-Ledger Staff

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is this season's Eric Mangini.

A 35-year-old wunderkind who has done little wrong in his rookie season. Secure enough to have stayed the course with an established 3-4 defense orchestrated by renowned coordinator Dick LeBeau, a man twice his age -- even though his own background is with a 4-3 defense.

"When you go in, you first want to establish yourself as a winning coach," Chiefs coach Herman Edwards said recently from his office in Kansas City. "You don't force square pegs into round holes."

Mangini? The Jets' coach is old news at 36. Decisions and philosophies that saw him crowned "Mangenius" last season are now ridiculed by some for showing him as stubborn and inflexible. The most glaring is his insistence on clinging to a 3-4 defense -- even if his personnel seems ill-suited to run it.

"The goal is actually the reverse of (being inflexible)," Mangini said yesterday from his office at Hofstra. "The goal in wanting this defense is not to be rigid or uncompromising, the goal is to build flexibility in your attack so you can put your players in the best situation to be successful."

What ensues, then, is the great debate: Is the system or the players the key to success?

"You have to make the system fit your players," former Giants coach Jim Fassel said by cell phone, "not the players fit your system."

It's a classic error made by management types in every walk of life. Mangini has committed a common blunder, said John Challenger, chief executive of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a nationwide executive placement firm.

"The management sin by Mangini was not using what his strengths were," Challenger said from his office in Chicago. "Flexible, successful managers don't come in rigidly with one way of doing things. They look at their people and their strengths and build around them.

"And then they change over time. It seems like he's narrow-minded."


One of Mangini's mentors, Bill Parcells, wouldn't put it quite that harshly. He's quick to point out that Mangini's way did get the Jets to a 10-6 playoff berth in his rookie campaign.

"The quicker you can get to the philosophy that you believe in, normally the better off you are," Parcells said over his cell phone. "I mean, it seemed to work okay last year for Mangini, right?"

Sure, the NFL is the ultimate bottom-line business, with the results right there in the standings and statistical analysis. The Steelers are 7-2, with the No. 1 ranked defense in both points (14 per game) and total yards (229.4). Tomlin brings that team to Giants Stadium today to face the 1-8 Jets, ranked 30th in the league in yards (380.2) and 27th in points (25.3).

This is on pace to be the worst Jets defense since 1975 (389.7 yards per game), when Mangini was 4 years old. The team's nine sacks and seven interceptions are on pace to establish franchise record-lows. Mangenius no more.

Even last season, there were questions about Mangini's 3-4 defense. Specifically, whether undersized inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma and nose tackle Dewayne Robertson were a good fit for the new alignment.

Vilma had been a Pro Bowl middle linebacker under Edwards in the 4-3 and Robertson was coming on as a defensive tackle. The Jets were 20th in defense last season, down from 12th in 2005. Now they have dropped another 10 spots. Square pegs, round holes?

"I know what you're talking about," Parcells said. "I see all the media now, saying that the Jets are struggling, and is it the 3-4 defense? My answer to that is good players can usually play in any defense."

Easy for Parcells to say. He coached the Giants' two Super Bowl champs in 1986 and '90.

"You know, we could've put Lawrence Taylor just about anywhere we wanted to," he said. "And Carl Banks. They all would've found a way to play."

Yet Parcells admits that when he took over the Cowboys in 2003, he kept their 4-3 defense instead of implementing his 3-4 because the personnel and his new coaching staff were best suited for it. After two seasons, and drafting players more amenable to his 3-4, Parcells went back to what he knew and liked the most.


Tomlin, like Parcells, adapted to what he had and made the players change over the course of time.

"I think anything other than staying with the 3-4," Tomlin told reporters during a conference-call the other day from Pittsburgh, "would not have been driven by the desire to win."

No one is arguing Mangini isn't doing his best to give the Jets a chance to win -- simply that he may have rushed his desire to put a stamp on his defensive philosophy.

"I understand that thinking," Mangini said.

He simply doesn't agree with it. "I like that we can go to (4-3 concepts) so quickly," he said, noting that if 265-pound linebacker Bryan Thomas "puts his hand on the ground (in a three-point stance), the Jets are in a 4-3 alignment.

When Fassel became the Giants coach in 1997, he was known as an outstanding offensive coordinator and developer of quarterbacks. The team he inherited had Dave Brown and Danny Kanell as its quarterbacks. His "system" would have to wait until quarterback Kerry Collins was signed in '99 and weapons like tight end Jeremy Shockey were drafted two years later.

"You have to slowly evolve into what you want," Fassel said. "You just can't come in and go, 'Presto! Here we go. I want to change this whole thing around.'"

The head coach oversees the entire team, not just one side of the ball. No matter what his background says. In 2002, coach Jon Gruden was hired by the Buccaneers to get them over the playoff hump Tony Dungy hadn't. Gruden kept Monte Kiffin's vaunted 4-3 defense intact. It wasn't broke, so he didn't fix it, and won the Super Bowl in his first season.

"There comes a point where you understand what your vision is and where you want to go," Edwards said. "It's never an easy transfer when you do this. But eventually you have to feel comfortable as the head guy."

For the Jets maybe this will simply prove to be a step back as Mangini adds the right players to his 3-4, like rookie linebacker David Harris.

"I've experienced players that once you leave somewhere, they say, 'Well, I never fit the system. It wasn't me, it was the system that got me,'" Parcells said.

"But then when the new system comes in, they're about the same as they were in the first one."

He paused. "Not very good."

The Jets yesterday placed FB Stacey Tutt (right knee) on injured reserved and signed rookie free agent LB Jason Trusnik (Ohio Northern) off their practice squad.

Paul Needell may be reached

at pneedell@starledger.com

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Head to Head: Jets KR Leon Washington vs. Steelers special teams

A closer look at the game within the game

Sunday, November 18, 2007

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The New York Jets probably thought there would be a deficiency in their special teams when they lost their kick returner, Justin Miller, to a season-ending knee injury Sept. 16. Miller was selected to the Pro Bowl last season after returning two kickoffs for touchdowns.

Actually, it has resulted in an improvement.

Leon Washington, a smallish (5-foot-8, 202 pounds) running back from Florida State, has stepped in and returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, one short of the NFL record for a single season.

"He's a guy who has a knack for doing some positive things when he gets the ball in his hands," said Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden, who played with Washington at Florida State.

Washington leads the NFL with a 33.5-yard kick return average and is one of 11 players in league history to return three kicks for touchdown in a season. He has more touchdowns and a better average than Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs, who had kick returns of 90 and 100 yards against the Steelers last week, the latter for a touchdown.

Kick returns for touchdowns are headed for an all-time high in the NFL this season. Already there have been 16 returns for touchdowns after nine games, seven more than there were all of last season and just two shy of the league record (18) set in 1998.

Nobody has done it better than Washington, who needs one more to tie the NFL single-season record held by Green Bay's Travis Williams (1967) and Chicago's Cecil Turner (1970).

"He spends a lot of time studying the schemes, studying how they are going to attack us in terms of our kickoff return game, where we need to fit and how he is going to return the ball," Jets coach Eric Mangini said. "He can get up in the special teams meeting and give the scouting report on our opponent's kickoff return team. That is how much time he spends on it."

"He's been that way since I knew him," said McFadden, one of the members of the kick-coverage team who will try to stop Washington. "He was a guy who prepared himself and approached the game as a professional. You enjoy being around a guy who takes it seriously and is always ready to play."

One week after nearly losing to the Browns because of Cribbs' kick returns, the Steelers will try to contain Washington with a coverage unit that has allowed four returns of 42 yards or longer in the past three games and four of 52 yards or longer this season. The Steelers rank 27th in the league in kick coverage, allowing an average of 26 yards per return.

"The football gods are always kind to you," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said, wryly. "When you are struggling in an area, we get presented with the opportunity to defend the best guy in the world at returning kicks right now, Leon Washington. [He is] great, and I mean that."

Tomlin said he wasn't going to have a "knee-jerk reaction" and make drastic changes in the kick-coverage personnel against the Jets.

The Steelers tried that against Cribbs, had him pinned inside the 5 after he muffed a squib kick, and he still scored on a 100-yard return.

The Jets can empathize. They gave up an NFL-record 108-yard kick return for touchdown to New England's Ellis Hobbs in the season opener.

First published on November 18, 2007 at 12:00 am

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Game 10 Matchup: Steelers at Jets

Gerry Dulac breaks down the trip to New Jersey.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Matt Freed/Post-Gazette

Hines Ward needs one touchdown reception to tie John Stallworth for the Steelers' career record. (vs. Browns 11/11/07)Game plan

What the Steelers will do: The last time they faced a team that ranked last in the league in rush defense they disdained their NFL No. 1 rushing attack and threw 35 times (21 in the first half) in a 31-28 loss in Denver. Willie Parker, who has a league-best six 100-yard games, carried only 10 times in the first half and finished with 93 yards against the Broncos. The Steelers should not make that mistake again against the Jets, who allow an average of 152.2 yards rushing per game. That being said, look for QB Ben Roethlisberger (13 TDs in his past four games) to pick on the Jets cornerbacks Hank Poteat, a fomer Steelers corner, and Darrelle Revis, their No. 1 pick from Pitt.

What the Jets will do: The Jets have a good running back in Thomas Jones (606 yards), but they don't always get good movement from their line despite the presence of LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson. They have two rushing TDs, tied for fewest in the league. Kellen Clemens has replaced Chad Pennington at QB and had an off week to get more comfortable with the offense. Defensively, they allow an average of 228 yards passing, 24th in the league, largely because they don't generate much pressure on the quarterback (9 sacks, tied for fewest in the NFL).

Keep an eye on ...

WRs Jerricho Cotchery/Laveraneus Coles:Theyhave combined to be the fourth most productive wide receiver tandem in the American Football Conference. Cotchery (51) and Coles (42) have combined for 93 catches, 1,155 yards and seven touchdowns. Coles, who did not play in the Jets' overtime loss to Washington because of a concussion, has six of the touchdowns. They will face a secondary that ranks No. 1 in the league and hasn't allowed a pass longer than 38 yards.


Game: Steelers (7-2) at New York Jets (1-8).

When: 4:05 p.m.

Where: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.


Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970).


The Jets are coming off a bye week and likely used the time off to change some of their schemes in an attempt to confuse the Steelers. But they have lost six in a row since their only victory against winless Miami. The Steelers are coming off three consecutive division victories that have given them, effectively, a three-game lead in the division.

Keys to victory

To win, the Jets must ...

1. Lean on Leon. They will need kick returns from Washington and turnovers by the Steelers to make up for their deficiencies.

2. Rake the secondary over the Coles. The veteran receiver has more catches (117) than any receiver who entered the league in 2000.

3. Keep Parker in this century. The Jets have allowed four 100-yard rushers, including 196 to Clinton Portis in their previous outing.

To win, the Steelers must...

1. Not forget Denver. In other words, don't throw, throw, throw against the league's worst rush defense.

2. Keep up with the Joneses. Their No. 1 rush defense is coming off a game in which they held the Browns to a season-low 40 yards rushing.

3. Put the heat on Poteat. The Steelers will attack the former Pitt and Steelers cornerback with deep passes.

First published on November 18, 2007 at 12:00 am

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Jets' Revis beginning standout pro career

By Scott Brown


Sunday, November 18, 2007

When the New York Jets took Darrelle Revis with the 14th overall pick of the NFL Draft last April, they didn't just address a glaring need.

They also gave Eric Mangini a cornerback with many of the same attributes as the one he had in New England when he served as the Patriots' defensive backs coach.

Like fellow Aliquippa native Ty Law, Revis is big, physical and without fear when it comes to facing premier wide receivers.

The former Pitt star still has a ways to go before he is considered in the class of his mentor, but Revis has started every game this season and collected 57 tackles and made an interception.

Mangini said Revis, who also has been credited with 10 passes defended, is only going to get better for many reasons, not the least of which is his desire to improve.

"He really works at it," the Jets coach said, "which is what you want from everybody, but especially from a young professional."

The young professional faces a seasoned one today in Steelers' wide receiver Hines Ward as well as an emerging star in Santonio Holmes.

Not that the 5-foot-11, 204-pounder is likely to blink while playing against the team he grew up cheering.

Revis already has found himself matched up against the likes of Randy Moss, Plaxico Burress, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh this season.

"First of all, you can't be scared," Revis said of the mindset he takes into games. "Second of all, what I do is I don't even look at the guy's name (on his jersey)."

Revis made quite a name for himself at Pitt, and during his decorated college career he had a chance to chat with a number of Steelers, including cornerback Ike Taylor, since the Steelers and Pitt share the same South Side practice facility.

"He's going to be a shutdown corner in the future," Taylor said.

One thing that will help Revis as he tries to reach that status is his close relationship with Law, a four-time Pro Bowler.

"I talk to Ty all the time," said Revis, who played three seasons at Pitt before leaving early for the draft. "He is encouraging me and supporting me as well, and helping me to be one of the top corners in the NFL."

Injuries besiege Indy

Tennessee has gotten suspect play at best from quarterback Vince Young, and Jacksonville's defense has been inconsistent.

Those reasons, among others, are why neither team figures to wrest the AFC South title from the Indianapolis Colts.

But the defending Super Bowl champions are suddenly looking vulnerable.

Wide receiver Marvin Harrison has missed four of Indianapolis' last five games because of a bruised knee, and Peyton Manning has been a different quarterback without his favorite target.

The Colts' defense, meanwhile, suffered a huge blow when Indianapolis put Dwight Freeney on injured reserve last week because of a season-ending foot injury.

Freeney, a three-time Pro Bowler, is the Colts' all-time sacks leader (60), and the defensive end is one of the top pass rushers in the NFL.

The 7-2 Colts signed Simeon Rice to help fill the void left by the loss of Freeney.

But Rice, 33, is on the downside of his career, and he recently got released by the Broncos, who need all the help they can get on defense.

"The one thing we can't do is think Simeon Rice is going to be the savior or the knight in shining armor that's going to make everything OK," said Colts coach Tony Dungy, who coached Rice when the two were in Tampa Bay. "I think (Rice) will ease into things. That will take awhile, but I think he'll be fine."

The question is whether he will be good enough for the Colts to contend for the Super Bowl.

They meet again

Kyle Boller will be at the controls of a beleaguered Ravens offense today when Baltimore hosts the Cleveland Browns.

Boller replaces starting quarterback Steve McNair, who is out for at least the next two games with a (non-throwing) shoulder injury.

The Ravens' offense has been under fire all season -- Baltimore is 28th in the NFL in scoring -- but Boller doesn't figure to provide the spark it badly needs.

He has been a disappointment since the Ravens took Boller with their first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2003 draft.

Ravens fans will surely wonder what may have been as they watch Derek Anderson lead Cleveland's high-flying offense.

Anderson was taken by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2005 draft and made the team as a rookie.

But when the Ravens tried to put him on their practice squad after two games, the Browns signed Anderson.

Anderson, who took over as Cleveland's starting quarterback after the second game of the season, has thrown for 2,231 yards and 20 touchdowns.

McNair and Boller have combined for five touchdown passes.

"We really thought he had a future," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Anderson. "When we tried to get Derek to develop (on the practice squad) we were in a roster situation where injuries prompted other concerns. Cleveland did a great job of picking him up. He's playing the way we thought he would."


"He's the most explosive player in the NFL when he has the ball in his hands. You kick it to him enough times, he's going to make you pay. I would kick it out of bounds every time." - Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on teammate Devin Hester and how he would, ahem, defend the Pro Bowl kick returner.

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

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Jets hope Clemens can emulate Roethlisberger



(Original publication: November 18, 2007)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Kellen Clemens won't have the opportunity to have the same success in his first year as a starter as the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger did. So the Jets are left to hope their new quarterback's career eventually mirrors that of Big Ben.

The Jets (1-8), off their bye week, host the Steelers (7-2) today at 4:05 p.m. on Pittsburgh native Curtis Martin's day at Giants Stadium. But the day could very well belong to Roethlisberger, who is having a great bounce-back year after a motorcycle wreck wrecked his 2006.

"He is more poised," said Jets safety Kerry Rhodes, who last faced Roethisberger in a 20-17 overtime loss in an AFC divisional-round game on Jan. 15, 2005. "He is making more check-downs. They are feeding him more of the reins to the offense. He is extending plays, making deep throws and making accurate throws."

The 25-year-old Roethlisberger, in his fourth year as the starter, has completed 160 of 242 passes for 2,020 yards, with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and has a quarterback rating of 110.2. He's also third on the team with 135 rushing yards and one touchdown on 18 carries.

"It feels a lot better to come in and the bumps and bruises that I have this year are from actual games," Roethlisberger said.

The 6-foot-5, 241-pound, linebacker-like Roethlisberger is no longer just being asked to be a game manager, which he essentially was his first two seasons.

Of course, he led the Steelers to the AFC championship game as a rookie - where the Steelers lost to the Patriots and their then-defensive-backs coach, Eric Mangini - and a Super Bowl title the next year.

"For me, his game is continually evolving," said Steelers rookie coach Mike Tomlin, who, at age 35, is just one year younger than Mangini. "He's a guy that has a unique blend of youth and experience. I think a lot of times people judge him off of what he did as a young guy. Like all young guys, he gets better with every snap."

That's what the Jets want to see out of the 24-year-old Clemens, who will be starting his second game since Mangini benched veteran Chad Pennington.

Like Roethlisberger, Clemens not only possesses a strong arm but the ability to scramble for yards.

"Those are all positive things that Kellen has shown," Mangini said. "But when you look at the body of work - two games and some other time here and there - vs. the amount of games that Ben has, it's hard to make that comparison."

Plus, Clemens would never be confused with an NFL linebacker at 6-2, 223 pounds. That leaves Clemens to only imagine what it would be like to have Big Ben's bulk.

"He's a bigger guy but he's still very mobile for a guy his size," Clemens said. "I think the biggest change that it would make for me is just being able to see a little bit better because he is so tall."

Clemens has completed 52 of 101 passes for 588 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions for a pedestrian quarterback rating of 59.3.

And this will mark Clemens' third start against a similar defense. The Ravens - Clemens started against Baltimore in Week 2 with Pennington nursing a sore ankle - Redskins and Steelers all put plenty of pressure on the opposing quarterback. In his first two starts, Clemens has been sacked seven times.

The Steelers' 25 sacks place them first in the AFC and tied for fifth in the NFL. Their defense is ranked first overall in the league, allowing opponents 229.4 yards, and is also first in pass defense, giving up 157.4 yards per game.

"Baltimore was a big pressure team," Clemens said. "The Steelers have traditionally been a big pressure team. Washington was a pretty big pressure team. Any time that you get experience in there with live bullets coming at you, it's experience that will help you down the road."

Note: The Jets placed fullback Stacy Tutt (right knee) on IR and signed linebacker Jason Trusnik off the practice squad.

Reach Andrew Gross at apgross@lohud.com and read his Jets' blog at www.jets.lohudblogs.com.

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Recalling Four Upsets of Decades Past

Published: Sat, November 17, 2:49pm EST

By Randy Lange

Lange is editor-in-chief of newyorkjets.com. He covered the Jets for 13 years for The Record of Hackensack, N.J.

File Under: Joe Namath, PIttsburgh Steelers, Ken Schroy, Bruce Harper, Brian Washington, Stabler

change font email article 11/17

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