Will Jets dare Steelers with Burress?

<b>PITTSBURGH – </b>Try these stats on for size: <br><br> -- Without Plaxico Burress for five full games, the Steelers averaged 22.2 points, 303 total yards and 170.4 passing yards. <br><br> -- With Burress making 11 starts, the Steelers averaged 23.3 points, 334.5 yards and 169.8 passing yards.

It doesn't seem to add up, particularly the fact the Steelers averaged more passing yards without Burress than with him.

No, it doesn't add up, particularly to those Steelers who struggled to move the ball against the Jets and their daring defense.

In the Steelers' 17-6 win over the Jets on Dec. 12, the Jets used a 3-5 front a majority of the time. Of course, the Jets used their base 4-3, but when they weren't using that or the 3-5 they changed up with 4-4 and 3-4 fronts. Every now and then they walked a safety up and attacked the Burress-less Steelers with 10 men in the box.

The Steelers still ran the ball. In fact, Jerome Bettis matriculated his way through a 10-man front for a 12-yard touchdown run to salt the game away in the fourth quarter.

So were the Steelers surprised by the rare 3-5 alignment?

"It surprised us in the sense they hadn't done it and then they did a lot of it," said Bettis. "We didn't expect that heavy dose. It made it difficult to pound the football."

Was it troublesome?

"At first it was," said left tackle Marvel Smith. "Once we went to the sideline and saw what they were trying to do to us, we made the adjustments we needed to to be able to block it. After that it really wasn't a problem."

Was there one key adjustment?

"Communication," Smith said.

Ever see anything like that?

"We've had teams go 4-4 on us," said center Jeff Hartings. "That's probably even tougher than a 3-5. But no I'd never seen a 3-5, not on first down."

Do you expect to see it this week?

"Yeah," Hartings said. "They've used it since then. I think they like it."

"I don't have any doubts they're going to try it again this week," said Smith.

The Steelers rushed for 120 yards that day. They've encountered only three worse rushing days this season. But even though the Jets dared the Steelers to throw, Roethlisberger finished with his worst day as a passer. His rating was a season-low 33.6. So the plan obviously worked. But can the Jets employ such a plan with Burress on the field?

"Nope," said Burress.

He was asked if he'll make a difference this week.

"I would like to think I can make a big difference if I'm playing any week," Burress said. "But I don't sit there and say I was missed in one particular game more than any other. Hopefully I can make some plays and we can run the ball well and have some success."

In spite of what the statistics say, the players agree that their offense performs more efficiently with Burress on the field. He only caught 35 passes this season, but he averaged 19.9 yards per reception. That's enough to keep the safeties back, even if there are five linebackers on the field.

"Now it's a guessing game," said Bettis. "You're going to see some cover-2 at times and they're hoping that they catch us throwing the football as opposed to keeping eight guys in the box, like the first time they played us. This game they're going to have to be a little more leery of us going upstairs.

"I think Plaxico coming back gives us, well, look at the first (pass) play against the Ravens when we went upstairs. I think what it does is say this guy is a legitimate deep threat and you've got to pay attention to him."

Regardless of what the stats might say.

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