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What Steelers must do to beat Jets in AFC championship game

The performances of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and tight end Heath Miller figure to be pivotal. It also will be important for Pittsburgh's run defense to play up to its league-leading form, which didn't happen the last time the teams met.

January 21, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Steelers tight end Heath Miller is brought down by Baltimore's Chris Carr (25) and Jarret Johnson (95) after a catch in the third quarter of their AFC divisional playoff game last week.
Steelers tight end Heath Miller is brought down by Baltimore's Chris… (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun )

What the Pittsburgh Steelers need to do to defeat the New York Jets in Sunday's AFC championship game (3:30 p.m. PST, Channel 2):

It's Miller time

Get the ball to tight end Heath Miller over the middle. He sat out the regular-season game against the Jets because of a concussion, and could be a pivotal player in this rematch. He's fast and elusive enough to create mismatch problems for New York's slower inside linebackers. Ben Roethlisberger is likely to look for him.

Avoid Mr. Everything

The Steelers need to play keep-away from returner/receiver/wildcat quarterback Brad Smith, who's a major big-play threat. It was Smith who returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against them. They can't let him beat them.

Remember who you are

They are the Pittsburgh Steelers. They stop the run. It's as simple as that. The Steelers were ahead of every other team in the league in that department by an absurd margin — they allowed an average of 62.8 yards, and second-place Chicago allowed 90.1. Yet the Jets ran for 106 yards against the Steelers. That cannot happen again.

Make it a (third and) long day

Too often in the first game, the Jets were in third-and-manageable situations. That's because they ran so effectively on first and second down after halftime. If the Steelers can get them in more third-and-long situations, the likelihood of a turnover goes way up.

Let No. 7 roll

The Jets are going to try to keep Ben Roethlisberger in the pocket. The Steelers need him to be able to get outside, extend plays and create. That's when some of the biggest plays happen. Despite his Big Ben nickname, he doesn't have a clock in his head. Give him some time and he's deadly.

Speed kills

Look for big days from one, two or three of Pittsburgh's scorching-fast receivers: Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Sanders and Wallace had seven catches each in the first game against the Jets, mostly on intermediate routes. Wallace was targeted 10 times, and Sanders a season-high 13. If they Jets aren't stopping it, the Steelers will keep doing it.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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