I’m not one to share my opinion, but since you asked…
- Hats off to Mike Tomlin and his staff for guiding their team to a 2nd Super Bowl appearance in three years. In the era of the NFL where salary cap, free agency and bad behavior from athletes makes it hard to stay on top, this franchise still manages to do so. Given the consistency of their success, its easy to see why, as it begins at the top with the Rooney family. If he isn’t already, Mike Tomlin should be regarded as one of the top three coaches in the NFL for the job he has done.
- Despite his passer rating of 33.5, Ben Roethlisberger was a major factor in the Steelers 24-19 win over the New York Jets. When you consider the luck of just two passes, Ben’s rating could have been over 100 for the game. Hines Ward was inches away from breaking the goal line on that opening drive catch that led to the teams first score. And if Rashard Mendenhall had not slipped while going towards the end zone in the 2nd quarter when he took a swing pass from his QB and punched it in, Ben’s passer rating would have jumped significantly. The fact that he gets zero points for his TD run on the very next play, tells you all you need to know about this overrated football stat.
- Big play Willie Gay was in the right place at the right time on Sunday for a scoop and score that led to the clubs last touchdown. Gay has come under fire this season, I should know as I’ve been one using him as a target for discourse. But admittedly, Gay did a good job overall on Sunday both in the blitz packages they used him in and in cover situations.
- Despite the two missed exchanges from center to QB, I thought Doug Legursky did a fine job of filling in when Maurkice Pouncey went down with the high ankle sprain suffered in that 1st quarter. Legursky, the pride of Beckley, West Virginia did yeoman’s work, as has the rest of that patchwork offensive line all season.
- Given the fact that the Jets were determined to stop Ben from throwing the ball to his two favorite targets, Rashard Mendenhall was huge in his effort to help his club get to Dallas. Mendenhall had good numbers during the regular season, rushing for 1,273 yards and 13 scores, both career highs. His average per carry was just a pedestrian 3.9 per attempt however. For what its worth, I’d rather have Mendenhall right now than say Willie Parker, who some people were still calling for his return mid-season.
- If I’m Rex Ryan, I don’t stop telling people how I feel and what I want to accomplish. Ryan is a breath of fresh air in sports. Some people think he’s brash. He’s just saying what’s on his mind. Why is that so wrong?
- Do you think Santonio Holmes still wishes he was in New York? I don’t.
- The Packers have run the ball with effectiveness in three playoff games thanks to rookie James Starks, who’s rushed for 263 yards. Starks, who came into said playoffs with a whopping 105 career yards on 29 attempts, will find it hard to scratch out even just 63 yards in 11 days when these two teams meet.
- Not having Daniel Sepulveda has hurt the Steelers in the special teams department. One reason for the Packers success on Sunday at Chicago was the play of their rookie punter Tim Masthay, who kept pinning the Bears deep in their own territory, while also limiting the chances of super return man Devin Hester. Could Masthay or perhaps Steelers punter Jeremy Kapinos factor into this game?
- And for that matter, how confident does Steelers Nation feel about Shaun Suisham right about now? What if the game is on the line and Suisham is called upon for a 45-yard field goal to tie or perhaps win the game outright?
- Who wins the hair matchup? Clay Matthews or Troy Polamalu?
- If anybody thinks this game will not feature a lot of scoring, you may be in the minority when game time comes around. These two teams combined for 73 points last year at Heinz Field in a game that came down to the wire. I can see it being similar, where the team that has the ball last needs a score to win. Who do you want controlling your fate in that situation? The hot QB who’s coming of age, or the man with two rings on his fingers already? I know where I want my money in that situation.
John Phillips is the author of this article and a direct descendant of King Leonidas of Sparta. When he’s not planning an attack of the Persian Army, Phillips finds time to anchor sports updates and host weekend talk shows for The Fan. You can catch Phillips this Sunday night on 93.7 The Fan after the NFL Pro Bowl, as he begins to break down the big game just after 10pm.