In bitter conditions, give edge to ...

The Steelers host the Jets tonight and the weather will be a bit brisk. Here's the AFCCG Day notebook:

PITTSBURGH – The National Weather Service is forecasting bitter winter conditions for tonight's game – 10 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 0 – but the Steelers aren't worried.

"We are very fortunate to have a quarterback that weather does not bother," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "Whether it's wind, snow or rain, he knows how to handle it. He has proven that we don't have to change the game plan because of weather conditions."

Ben Roethlisberger's first start was in a south Florida hurricane. Since then he's played 17 games in freezing temperatures.

In those 17 games, in which the temperature at kickoff was 32 degrees or less (according to NFL Gamebooks), the Steelers are 11-6 (.647) and Roethlisberger has a 95.5 passer rating.

However, the Steelers lost the only two games in which Roethlisberger started in less than 20-degree weather: last season at Cleveland (15 degrees, -6 wind chill) and in the 2004 AFC Championship Game against New England (11 degrees, -1 wind chill). Roethlisberger's combined passer rating in those two games was 71.1.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is a California native who played collegiately at Southern Cal. He never played in freezing weather until 2009, his rookie season in the NFL.

In six sub-freezing games in the last two years, Sanchez and the Jets are 4-2 (.667). Sanchez has a passer rating of 74.3. He's never played in temperatures below 20 degrees.


* Rex Ryan was the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator from 2005-08. He schemed to stop Roethlisberger and the Steelers seven times, and the Steelers were 5-2 in those games. Roethlisberger had a passer rating of 81.7.

* For handicappers who study the last five games of each team, the Steelers hold a slight edge (+0.3) in overall rushing per attempt on both sides of the ball, and hold a whopping edge (+36.1) in overall passer-rating margins. The Jets hold a slight edge (+1.9) in yards-per-point margins, with the numbers of both teams surprisingly portending a high-scoring game tonight. The statistics were gleaned from games against the Steelers' .434 opponents and the Jets' .631 opponents.

* Here's one courtesy of ESPN: The Jets rush opposing passers with four men or less 87 percent of the time in these playoffs. They rushed with four or fewer 36 percent of the time in last season's playoffs.

* The Steelers are 7-7 in AFC Championship Games. The Jets are 1-4 with the lone win in the 1968 AFL playoffs.


Chris Hoke joined the Steelers in 2001, so tonight will be his fifth AFCCG. It's his second with coach Mike Tomlin and the veteran nose tackle was asked about the young coach's development.

"I think he has a better grasp of what it takes to get us where we want to go," Hoke said. "He's been there now. He's like a player. In these big games now he knows what you've got to do, what it takes to play in the Super Bowl"

His most impressive bit of coaching this season?

"I think he did a real good job after we got blown out by the Patriots," Hoke said. "He really got us re-focused. He got us back in full pads for a couple of weeks, brought us back to playing physical football. I think he got us back on the right track. I thought he did a great job with that."

The Steelers are 7-1 since losing to the Patriots. Their only loss was to the Jets.


Troy Polamalu on the difference between the Steelers' 2008 and 2010 defenses:

"I think we had a more complete defense in '08. I think we were a lot better on the back end. I anticipate the game (tonight) being an old-school, Ravens-Steelers kind of game where it's just run, run, run, run and defense. Hopefully that's what we get because we feel comfortable in those games, and they've been successful playing that style of game as well."

* Emmanuel Sanders on his friend and fellow rookie receiver Antonio Brown making the big catch last week:

"That's how you be great. Yep, that's how you be great. If anybody deserves it, he does. He works extremely hard. He comes over on the offense and runs three, four plays with us and then he works his butt of on the scout team. If anybody deserved it, he did."

* Brett Keisel on former coach Bill Cowher predicting a Jets win:

"I think he did it on purpose for our benefit. He knows when that happens we can usually respond, and hopefully we'll respond to B.C.'s horrible comments."


There wasn't any news Saturday about Bryant McFadden's abdominal strain, so the Steelers' left cornerback remains questionable. He practiced Friday and was worried how he'd recover the next day. Reserve safety Will Allen is also questionable with a sprained knee. Aaron Smith, of course, will not play.

The Jets list the following players as questionable: reserve CB Drew Coleman (knee), DT Shaun Ellis (knee), reserve safety James Ihedigbo (knee, ankle) and WR/KR/QB Brad Smith (groin).

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