8) REVIS AND CROMARTIE CAN STOP HINES WARD AND MIKE WALLACE
Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie were a strong one-two punch keeping Wes Welker (seven catches for 57 yards) and Deion Branch (five catches for 59 yards) under control on Sunday. They did similarly well against Pittsburgh's Hines Ward in Week 15, holding him to just two catches.
Stopping Mike Wallace, who emerged this season as one of the league's top deep threats will be a more challenging task. Expect Wallace to see lots of Cromartie, who along with safeties Eric Smith and Brodney Pool, can neutralize his ability to get down the field. Credit: Getty Images
Despite losing to the Jets, 22-17, last month, the Steelers outgained the Jets by more than 100 yards, 378-276. Wide receiver Mike Wallace, who was matched most of the game against Jets corner Antonio Cromartie, had a big day with seven receptions for 102 yards, while veteran Hines Ward managed only two catches for 34 yards on Revis Island.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin declined to speculate on whether the Jets might switch Darrelle Revis onto Wallace, whose 21.0 average gain and 10 touchdown catches suggest he's more of a deep threat, but it's clear he wouldn't be surprised if the Jets made that move.
"I don't know who they're going to put him on," Tomlin said, "but whoever they do put him on is going to have a long day. That's what the tape tells me. His reputation is legitimate. He's a really, really good football player. We've got to be conscious of where he is at all times."
After the first meeting with the Jets, Ward (pictured blocking Revis in front of Wallace) complained that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the offensive staff should have targeted him more often instead of going away from Revis. "I've been in the league 10 years," Tomlin said brusquely, "and I haven't been around a receiver that doesn't think he's open."
Naturally, Tomlin praised both Revis and Cromartie as corners who are capable of locking down their man. He duly noted how the Jets have dialed back the pressure in two playoff wins in favor of playing more coverage against Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
"I think the prudent approach is to understand and anticipate that this team is capable of providing a wide variety of attacks," Tomlin said of the Jets' defense. "Chances are you're going to see a little bit of everything and more of what works. We're going to try to do a diligent job of preparing ourselves for all the things they're capable of with the understanding the variables could be pretty big."
Trying to hold their coverage against Roethlisberger without much blitzing the way they did against Manning and Brady could be problematic for the Jets because the Steelers quarterback is more mobile and prolongs plays by getting out of the pocket. "I don't have the answer to that," Tomlin said. "That's a question for those guys."