In 15 of 17 games this season, Pittsburgh has held its opponents to 75 yards of rushing or less, but the Steelers lost at home after yielding more than 100 rushing yards to New England (103) and the Jets (106). The 35 yards rushing the Steel Curtain gave up to Baltimore in last week's AFC divisional playoff was far more typical of the NFL's top rushing defense, and linebacker James Harrison says that's the standard they must meet against the Jets in Sunday's AFC title game.
"Their strength is our strength," Harrison said of the Jets. "Their strength is running the ball, and our strength is stopping the run. So, it may come to who's better…If we let them run the ball up and down the field against us, that leaves other things open in the passing game. If you can't stop the run, you definitely won't be able to stop the pass. They'll just play-action pass you over your head."
Harrison praised the Jets' offensive line and their "two-headed monster" at running back with LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. He can't forget the naked bootleg by quarterback Mark Sanchez for a 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the Jets' 22-17 win on Dec. 19.
"I should have covered that, but I didn't," Harrison said. Describing Sanchez's scrambling ability, he added, "I think it's up there with Ben [Steelers QB Roethlisberger]. He's not as big, but he's definitely as agile and he gets away. He'll pump it to get you in the air. He's slippery."
Harrison also hinted at some concern about the Jets' receiving corps of wideouts Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery and tight end Dustin Keller. "With the quick-game stuff they're doing," Harrison said, "we're going to have to get up to the line and jam them to throw them off."
The absence of injured safety Troy Polamalu, Harrison said, was no excuse for losing to the Jets. On the other hand, his presence makes a huge difference. "Troy brings this defense from I'd say a 'C' defense to an "A' defense," Harrison said. "Troy will be in the box and have the deep third [to cover], and he'll make it there. He's someone you really have to account for in the secondary."