Last week it took all of a few minutes after their win over the Colts for the Jets to start looking at and talking about the New England Patriots. Coach Rex Ryan started throwing jabs at Bill Belichick, and then a few days later CB Antonio Cromartie went so far as to call Pats QB Tom Brady an a-hole.
It got personal, and many felt that the Pats would respond as they normally do, with a knockout blow of the Jets to set up another round of Steelers-Patriots for the AFC Title.
Then something strange happened – the Jets won. They won in convincing fashion on the Pats turf, stopping Brady at every turn, and pounding the overrated Patriots defense with a solid run game and a mistake-free day from Mark Sanchez.
As the game ended, a bunch of Jets players ran around with their arms extended as if they were flying, and WR Braylon Edwards did a rather amazing backflip right there on the field looking like baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith in his prime.
So after the big win, there was only one thing left for the Jets to do. Start talking trash about the Steelers. But again, oddly enough, it hasn’t happened. At least as of now.
The Jets, the team that is getting a majority of the focus heading into Sunday’s AFC Title game in Pittsburgh, have been quiet so far in talking about their opposition. Edwards did fire a harmless tweet the way of Ben Roethlisberger Sunday night, just basically stating that he is next, but so far, that’s been about it.
“It’s a different feel,” Ryan said.
“We’ve moved on,” Cromartie said. “We’re getting ready for Pittsburgh now.”
Ryan knows all too well about losing to the Steelers. He fell in the 2008 AFC Title game in Pittsburgh when he was the defensive coordinator of the Ravens. He was a part of three losses to Pittsburgh that season, and knows that in his mind it’s time to get the Steelers back for three heartbreaks that season.
“Give me someone you want me to call out,” Ryan jokingly said when asked why he wouldn’t use his past failures against Pittsburgh as motivation. “I guess Hines Ward and Casey Hampton. Those would be the two early targets.”
Even for the Steelers, there’s not a whole lot of bad blood between them and that Jets, and that’s different from last weeks grudge match with the Ravens. This time, other than a week 15 loss to the Jets 22-17 at Heinz Field, the history between the two teams isn’t all that deep.
The two did play a memorable playoff game back in the divisional round in 2004, a game best remembered for Jets kicker Doug Brien missing two late kicks that would have won it for the Jets over the 15-1 Steelers. Pittsburgh then rallied for a drive in OT and a Jeff Reed field goal won it 20-17.
So will the tension in this upcoming matchup pick up before Sunday? You can bet that somewhere Ryan and his merry men are trying to come up with some dirt to throw the Steelers way.
Problem is, the Steelers don’t play that way. It’ll be business first for the Steelers Sunday, something that the Jets are simply not use to.