AFC Title Game A Pass-Fail Proposition

Mike Prisuta breaks down the AFC Championship Game and believes the deciding factor will be a someone who didn't play for the Steelers the last time against the Jets.

This one will be won in the secondary.

It made sense that last week's game against the Ravens would be decided on the ground, specifically by which team would be persistent enough with the running game to keep at it and in the process keep the other team's pass rush somewhat at bay, and by which team would be potent enough to score from in close running the football.

The Steelers turned out to be that team on both accords.

This one will be decided in the air.

Did you expect anything less against the Jets?

Both teams like to run the ball and both are proficient enough at it that they can be expected to enjoy some success doing so. But since both teams also defend the run exceptionally well, that success will be limited. Rashard Mendenhall, Shonn Greene and L.T. are going to have their moments, but more often they're going to take their lumps.

So both teams are going to have to throw.

The Jets will do so with a relatively inexperienced quarterback targeting a pair of quality receivers -- Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes -- against a secondary that remains suspect even with Troy Polamalu. Edwards has all of a sudden begun to consistently catch the football and Holmes is still Holmes, which, as he reminded us in the New England game, can be devastating.

If I'm the Jets, I don't hate this matchup.

Pittsburgh had better hope Bryant McFadden is able to finish as well as start.

The Steelers will continue to unleash a much-improved passing attack that's been bolstered of late not only by Mike Wallace and Hines Ward but also by the rapid development of a couple rookies at wide receiver, one that's triggered by a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback who's playing the best football of his career. But they'll do so against one cornerback who is absolutely all-world in Darrelle Revis and another who can be that on occasion in Antonio Cromartie.

If I'm the Steelers, I'm not deterred by that matchup.

The key here will be Heath Miller, and to a lesser extent Matt Spaeth.

The Jets have had tight end issues through much of the season, and they're vulnerable against offenses that can hit tight ends after they've been passed off by the linebackers but before they've been picked up by the safeties. As long as the attacking quarterback has enough time to throw, and doesn't become confused by all the hocus pocus the Jets employ to hide the hole in their defense, plays will be there waiting to be made.

The X-factor on both sides will be catching the ball.

If a DB does so at the right time, the game can be changed.

And if a receiver drops it at the wrong time -- this Bud's for you, Anquan Boldin -- the game can be lost.

Anyway, the Steelers are 8-1 in the postseason with Miller in the lineup. That'll never have meant more than it will on Sunday.

He's already had his Boldin moment this season on a still-hard-to-figure fumble in New Orleans. Odds are it'll be a long time before something such as that happens again.


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