FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
To those fans worried that the Jets' lack of trash-talking this week might have a detrimental effect Sunday, Rex Ryan has a message for you:
"I can assure you we're going to play well, and I can assure you that [Steelers] team is going to get everything we have, just like always," Ryan said when I asked him Friday about the concern. "We know what's at stake here. We want the [championship] T-shirt, we want the hat, we want the trophy. So I don't know what else I need to say."
And just for emphasis, Ryan invoked the Steelers' glorious track record of Super Bowl titles. "They've had six Super Bowl trophies," he said. "If they want to put them on the field, we'll play them, too."
So there. After two weeks of non-stop trash-talking as they prepared for, then beat, the Colts and Patriots, it's been remarkably quiet during the week leading up to the AFC Championship Game against the Steelers. So quiet, in fact, that it left many fans wondering if the team might have lost its mojo.
Nonsense, Ryan said. They'll be just as ready for this one as the previous two. In fact, when I asked Ryan about his mixed emotions after the last time he faced the Steelers in an AFC Championship Game, he added another zinger.
Ryan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator when they lost to Pittsburgh two years ago, and Ryan was torn apart by the defeat. At the same time, he was exhilarated about what lay ahead; he was about to take the Jets' head-coaching job.
"You go from being about as low as you can be to being excited and understanding that you're going to get that opportunity that you've wanted your whole life," he said. "We fell short . . . but not this time."
The Jets are ready - even if they haven't talked smack the way they did the previous two weeks.
Take it from the guy who did the most talking. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who laced into Tom Brady, is convinced the lack of talk has zero to do with what happens on the field.
"We know what this game's all about, so we don't want to talk," Cromartie said. "We just want to go out and play ball, and that's all it is. We talked the last two weeks, it was personal, so we took it as that. Now we know what kind of atmosphere it's going to be. It's just time to get after it and go play football."
Then again, Cromartie didn't go the entire week without saying something controversial. In an appearance on SNY's "Loud Mouths'' Friday night, Cromartie took a swipe at Steelers receiver Hines Ward. "I know for a fact that he will hit you while you're not looking," Cromartie said of Ward's blocking technique. "I don't think he's man enough to hit you while you're looking at him."
Aside from that, for anyone out there who thinks Ryan's decision to talk more about what's at stake will take away from the Jets' intensity, forget it.
By now, I think it's time to trust Ryan to properly calibrate his team's mind-set; he knows his players better than anyone else and he understands that the message this week isn't about hating the Steelers. It's about loving the idea of the Jets going to the Super Bowl for the first time in 42 years.
Maybe the Jets realize they don't always need to yap. Especially now that they're flush with confidence after beating two of the game's greatest quarterbacks on the road in back-to-back weeks. "We didn't talk before every game this year, so that doesn't dictate or indicate how we're going to play," said Bart Scott, one of the Jets' biggest talkers. "Sometimes you talk, sometimes you don't."
And even Scott knows there's no need for any more talk.
"It's time to play."