The Steelers are off to a dominant start in tonight's AFC Championship against the New York Jets, who simply look outclassed after one half of football. Here are some of my observations from the second quarter. Be sure to check out my first quarter notes, too.
- Deep in Jets territory, the Steelers went for it on 4th-&-1 in the full house formation, a run-heavy pre-snap look. Surprisingly, though, Pittsburgh went play action, and linebacker Bryan Thomas intercepted a tipped pass intended for Rashard Mendenhall. The decision to go for it and the play call were solid, but Mendenhall, who seemed surprised that Ben Roethilsberger threw it so hard, should have made the catch. Regardless, the interception, while it looks bad in the stat sheet, is irrelevant, since a failed 4th down attempt would've produced the same result, in terms of field position.
- I slurped Mendenhall (127 total yards, including an awesome 35-yard rush (video) up the sideline) in my first quarter notes, but Issac Redman has been no slouch either, particularly on a run deep in New York territory, where the bruiser kept spinning and bouncing off tacklers for a 13-yard gain. The scamper was just a small part of a 60-yard drive that culminated in a Steelers field goal, giving Pittsburgh a 10-0 lead. After one half of football, Redman has 27 (6.8 yards per carry) of Pittsburgh's 136 yards on the ground.
- I mentioned in my last post that a Steelers-Packers Super Bowl would be one that pitted two great rushing quarterbacks against each other. The Packers Aaron Rodgers certainly lived up to that against the Bears earlier this afternoon, and Roethlisberger is getting it done on the ground, too. On the Jets 2 yard line, the quarterback went play action and looked to have a dump off pass in the flats, but Roethlisberger simply rolled out and walked it into the end zone, giving his team a 17-point lead.
- Just a few plays later, Pittsburgh's nasty defense forced a fumble when Ike Taylor came on a blitz and fellow cornerback William Gay scooped it up and took it to the house. I hate to call this one at the half, especially considering the Steelers' late-game heroics last week against the Ravens, but I just can't see the Jets overcoming a 21-point deficit in the second half.
- The Jets are a very good team. I mean, obviously they're a good team; this is their second straight year in the conference championship. But I still think they're a year or two away from being a truly elite team, simply because their offense lacks consistency with youngster Mark Sanchez at the helm. That unit is capable of looking great from time to time, but the Jets will never go to the Super Bowl until their quarterback improves his accuracy. In the first half of tonight's contest, Sanchez has been...um...bad (4.5 yards per attempt). Of course, it's not all his incompetence - you've got to give Pittsburgh's defense a ton of credit for their dominant performance.