Jones looks forward to facing rugged Steelers

Averaging 94.6 yards per game, the Jets ground game ranks 22nd in the league.

If the group hopes to improve on that grade, it won't come easily as the Pittsburgh Steelers defense ranks first in the league against the run, and hasn't yielded a 100-yard rusher in an astounding 34 games.

Thomas Jones, the Jets prized off-season acquisition, has eclipsed the century mark on just two occasions this season. However, the finger of blame can be pointed just as much at the Jets collective whole as it can Jones; the team's struggles have certainly limited his carries.

The Steelers defense is considering one of the NFL's most physical, and Jones is looking forward to the challenge.

"As a physical back, I like to run hard," Jones said on Friday afternoon. "I really don't shy away from contact much. They have a physical defense. We had a great week of practice with the offensive line, running backs and fullbacks as far as blocking. We are prepared for the game. It is going to be a physical game. Four quarters of football is what I'm expecting."

Well rested coming off the bye-week, and relatively healthy, the Jets are still heavy underdogs. The Steelers, under first year head coach Mike Tomlin, have looked impressive in recent weeks and look to climb into the status of the NFL's elite teams.

Tomlin was raised in the Tampa-2, 4-3 scheme, yet he elected to stick with the team's current 3-4 when he was hired. An approach that best fit his team's current personnel, a differing tactic from that of Eric Mangini.

"I'm not interested in putting my stamp on the defense because that happens to be my area of expertise,'' Tomlin said via conference call earlier in the week. "I'm the head coach of this football team and our job is to win as many games as we possibly can."

The one facet of the game where they have been less than stellar is one of the lone areas where the Jets have excelled; that being the kick return game. Last week, Cleveland's Josh Cribbs carved up the Steelers with two 90 plus yard kick returns. The Jets lone Pro Bowl candidate is Leon Washington, who is leading the league in yards per return, averaging 33.5 yards an attempt. His three kick return touchdowns are a Jets single-season record and his influence could play a pivotal role toward Sunday's outcome.


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