AFC Championship Breakdown

By Chris Ransom
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger laughs as he talks with the media after winning the AFC Divisional Playoff game 31-24 against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 15, 2010. UPI/Archie Carpenter

Can Rex Ryan devise a game plan to keep Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the pocket?
New York Jets

New York Jets Offensive Philosophy Balanced offense The Balanced offense uses the running game to set up the passing game.

Quarterback Philosophy Balanced Quarterback. Sanchez only knows 2 of the 4 required offensive philosophies to succeed in the NFL. Sanchez knows the balanced and west coast offense which are two more important offenses because those are pro style offenses. The West Coast offenses uses the short and medium passing game to set up the deep passing game and the run. The vertical offense uses a quarterback with a cannon arm. Sanchez has a good arm, but not an elite arm with elite arm strength where you can constantly fire the football 20 yards downfield. The other offense a quarterback has to learn is a shotgun no huddle spread offense. Since Sanchez is inconsistent and erratic at times he is best suited playing in a balanced offense that uses the run to set up the pass.

Running Back Philosophy Power Back The Power back system uses the running game to initiate contact between defenders. All good backs need speed and the ability to break tackles. Power runners break tackle by trucking defenders while elusive backs uses juke moves and spin moves to get by defenders.

Fullback Philosophy Balanced The balanced fullback does not need too many carries.

Wide Receiver Philosophy Speed Speed receivers use their speed to wear down defenders.

Tight End Philosophy Blocking Tight End The Jets use their tight end as an extra lineman as a run blocker.

Offensive Tackle Philosophy Run Blocker The Jets are better than Pittsburgh in terms of protecting the quarterback, but both offensive lines use run blockers on the offensive line. DeBrickishaw Ferguson is an excellent left tackle who can run block and pass block well. Damien Woody is injured at right tackle so Woodley should have a big game for Pittsburgh.

Guard Philosophy Run Blocker The Jets have the run blockers at the guard position. Branden Moore is an excellent run blocker at right guard.

Center Philosophy Run Blocker The New York Jets have excellent a run blocker at center who can pass block well in Nick Mangold. The last two centers to be drafted in the first round are Nick Mangold of the New York Jets and Maurkice Pouncey of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

New York Jets Defensive Philosophy 3-4 Which uses 3 defensive lineman and 4 linebackers 2 on the outside and 2 on the inside.

Defensive End Philosophy 3-4 Run Stuffer The 3-4 run stuffer at the defensive end position can make some big plays.

Defensive Tackle Philosophy 3-4 Nose Tackle The nose tackle is big and physical and stuffs the run. Kris Jenkins is a solid nose tackle for the New York Jets.

Outside Linebacker Philosophy 3-4 Pass Rusher The 3-4 rush linebacker also known as the 3-4 outside linebacker is the teams best pass rusher. New York’s head coach Rex Ryan has a combination of effective 3-4 blitzes. Ryan used to be the Ravens defensive coordinator as Ryan appears in his 3rd straight AFC Championship game. Before leaving for the New York Jets Rex Ryan was the Ravens defensive coordinator.

Middle Linebacker Philosophy 3-4 Tackler The New York Jets have great tacklers who can stuff the middle of the running lanes for the New York Jets. Bart Scott and David Harris are some of the best run stuffers in the NFL for the New York Jets.

Cornerback Philosophy Man Coverage/Ballhawk Cornerback The New York Jets have 4 different corners that can contain your teams best wide receivers in man coverage. Darrell Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Dwight Lowery, and Kyle Wilson all have talent at the cornerback position.

Strong Safety Philosophy Smart/Intangibles Safety The smart intangibles safety can do everything that you look for in a safety. They even call the plays on secondary for the defense to run.

Free Safety Philosophy Press Coverage Run Stuffer free safety The Jets like to use their free safety as an 8th man in the box when the opponent calls running plays.

New York Jets Special Teams Philosophy Accuracy

Kicker Philosophy Accurate Kicker The New York Jets love accurate kickers. Nick Folk made 30 field goals on the year.

Punter Philosophy Accurate Punter Steve Weatherford got 42 punts inside the 20 yard line.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Philosophy Balanced Offense The Balanced offense uses the run to set up the pass. The balanced offense is the most conservative offense and the most basic and predictable offense, but both teams got over 100 rushing yards in the previous meeting.

Quarterback Philosophy Field General The Field General quarterback knows every offensive philosophy. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees are all field general quarterbacks so you have to put Ben Roethlisberger in this category also.

Running Back Philosophy Power Running Back The Power running back runs up the middle and tries to truck defenders. Rashard Mendenhall can do more than be a power back. Mendenhall has some elusive running in his game as he can break tackles by juking and spinning on plays.

Fullback Philosophy Bruiser Fullback The Bruiser fullback wears down defenses and is probably the most effective fullback in terms of skill. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a bruiser fullback named Frank Summers who is very dynamic when healthy.

Wide Receiver Philosophy Balanced The Balanced wide receiver philosophy means you have a combination of effective playmaking receivers. Some receivers have great size, other receivers are fast, some receivers are route runners with good hands, some receivers have sick vertical jumps. When you have balanced receivers you have at least 1 guy who can bring each of these elements to the table in terms of wide receiver talent.

Tight End Philosophy Route Runner with Soft Hands Heath Miller is an excellent route runner with soft hands who can catch the football.

Offensive Tackle Philosophy Run Blocker Pittsburgh’s offensive line did well pass blocking until Jonathan Scott came in for the injured Max Starks. Scott allowed 20 sacks in 10 starts including the playoff win last week against Baltimore. Every other Steelers starter on the offensive line allowed less than 6 sacks which is really good moving forward. Right Tackle Flozell Adams got nominated for my right tackle of the year award.

Guard Philosophy Run Blocker Chris Kemoatu did a great job at left guard this season and the rotation of Trai Essex and Ramon Foster.

Center Philosophy Run Blocker Maurkice Pouncey was an excellent first round pick. He can play any position on the offensive line, but is best suited at center and not only that Pouncey can pass block, run block, or zone block. Pouncey has great footwork for a lineman and he can do everything you look for in an offensive lineman.

Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Philosophy 3-4 Which involves 3 defensive lineman and 4 linebackers 2 on the outside and 2 on the inside.

Defensive End Philosophy 3-4 Run Stuffer The 3-4 run stuffer stuffs the run. Pittsburgh continues to develop good run stuffers and this team has depth when healthy with players like Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, Travis Kirsche, and Nick Eason. Most of these players besides Hood are in their 30’s so another end in the NFL Draft would not hurt.

Defensive Tackle Philosophy 3-4 Nose Tackle Pittsburgh has some of the best 3-4 nose tackles in the NFL in Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke. These run stuffers are really focused when making a big play.

Outside Linebacker Philosophy 3-4 Pass Rusher The Steelers have the 3-4 pass rushers to succeed as James Harrison and LaMaar Woodley each recorded 10 sacks in the regular season. Heck even backup rookie Jason Worilds recorded a sack for the Steelers.

Middle Linebacker Philosophy 3-4 Tackler Players like James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons make tackling look so easy.

Cornerback Philosophy Cover 2 The Steelers use cover 2 zone coverage with their cornerbacks. They also use some Tampa 2 defense along with zone blitzes, and press coverage to keep players on the secondary from missing key tackles. The Steelers secondary may not be good in man coverage, but they stuff the run well and if you discount pass defenses that are good in man coverage Pittsburgh probably has one of the better pass defenses because of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau with his unpredictable playcalling and strong safety Troy Polamalu.

Strong Safety Philosophy Smart Intangibles Safety Troy Polamalu is a smart intangibles safety who can play any type of coverage and can even call his own plays on secondary. Troy Polamalu records blitzes and makes interceptions. People have told me I have the most ridiculous hair in town and when I mean ridiculous I mean ridiculously good looking. Troy Polamalu might be the only person in the city of Pittsburgh who has my number in the hair department. By that I mean his hair is greater than mine. Troy Polamalu is to Pittsburgh what Chuck Norris is to Dallas. I’m going to move on to free safety philosophy and discuss Ryan Clark.

Free Safety Philosophy Center fielder The Center fielder is excellent at recording interceptions, but is terrible in coverage. Ryan Clark is probably one of the better center fielder free safeties in the NFL because most free safeties are either A. A press coverage run stuffer, B. A Hard Hitter that will knock you flat on the ground, or C. A Zone Coverage safety who covers the deep ball. Most safeties in the NFL do not focus on recording interceptions and being the Center Fielder in the secondary. Ryan Clark does while playing press coverage and stuffing the run.

Special Teams Philosophy Balanced

Kicker Philosophy Pinpoint Accuracy Kicker The Steelers have a pinpoint accuracy kicker philosophy because the wind at Heinz Field is so complicated and on one side you have the wind and on the other side you have the crowd. No other stadium in the NFL has that for a home field advantage.

Punter Philosophy Big Foot Long Distance Punter Pittsburgh loves long distance punters. That is why they drafted Daniel Sepulveda.

Keys to the Game

Key #1 DeBrickishaw Ferguson’s pass blocking VS James Harrison’s pass rushing
Last time these teams played Ferguson kept Harrison from sacking Mark Sanchez. The left tackle position is the most important position in football next to quarterback which is why I wrote the Steelers off for most of the year, but I do not see Sanchez beating the Steelers even with the extra protection because his accuracy is erratic and off tempo at times while Roethlisberger is consistent even with a bad offensive line without Max Starks. If you saw The Blindside the Michael Oher story starring Sandra Bullock you would realize how important this position is. Your offensive line is as only as good as your left tackle, but with Jonathan Scott injured the guy who gave up 20 sacks in 10 starts this injury for Pittsburgh may make the offensive line better. Ferguson was a top 5 draft pick in 2006 who is a pro bowl caliber run blocker with good pass blocking skills.

Key #2 Ben Roethlisberger VS Jets defense
Rex Ryan has a great 3-4 blitz scheme and the Jets have four different corners that can cover. This Jets defense knocked off the 2 best quarterbacks in the NFL in back to back weeks in Manning and Brady. Another thing to consider with the Jets is the Jets had the revenge factor to fight for when playing Indianapolis and New England. The Jets do not have that plus there not talking trash like they are ready. If these Jets linebackers can blitz, keep Roethlisberger in the pocket, and use the 4 corners to shut down Pittsburgh’s offense they have a chance, but it is going to take a lot of good coaching on their part.

Key #3 Running Game
Both teams had top 5 run defenses prior to the first meeting at Heinz Field in the regular season, but both running games got over 100 yards rushing against these run defenses in the regular season. The team that ran for more rushing yards is 7-1 in the NFL Playoffs this year with the only loss being Kansas City’s loss over Baltimore. I think there are at least 10 different positions that address a bigger need than running back, but these teams both love running the football so you have to believe running will dictate the outcome of this game.

Jets Passing Game VS Steelers Pass Defense Mark Sanchez is pretty erratic at quarterback, but made some good throws last time he played the Steelers. This time he is going up against Troy Polamalu I like the Steelers here.

Jets Running Game VS Steelers Run Defense I believe Pittsburgh’s run defense will be better with Polamalu and they will be much more focused. The Jets scored 22 points in the last game. Look for them to get slightly over half that total in that contest. Pittsburgh’s run defense looks better too.

Steelers Passing Game VS Jets Pass Defense Pittsburgh and the Jets are even here because Pittsburgh does not have an elite left tackle and the Jets can blitz and they have 4 good corners. Pittsburgh will make big plays on offense, but this will be a defensive contest.

Steelers Running Game VS Jets Run Defense The Jets run defense was a joke earlier in the year. Now there better on run defense. I like the Jets run defense here.

Prediction: The Steelers are -3 on the spread meaning their 3 point favorites. Over 60 percent of the public is betting on Pittsburgh so I think the people betting on the Steelers are more likely to make money than the people betting on the Packers because over 80 percent of the public is taking Green Bay to cover the 3 point spread that there favored by against Chicago on the road. The final score of the last game was 22 to 17 Jets. I like Pittsburgh in this game 17 to 13 in a defensive contest. I know people expect an offensive game because both offenses are hot, but I think were going to see another defensive slugfest.

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