Prior to playing the Patriots, Ryan raised the trash talk volume to deafening levels, declaring his animosity for Billy B. and proclaiming that the AFC divisional playoff game was the “second most important game in Jet’s history.”
Initially, all of this figured to play into Pittsburgh’s hands.
Long time Washington, DC sports guru, Ken Beatrice, used to repeatedly caution against employing such nakedly emotional approaches. Citing Buddy Ryan and Jerry Glanville as evidence, Beatrice conceded that motivation via emotion could lead to tremendous surges in performance, but warned that it also resulted in dangerous drops.
As Yoda would say, “All the more interesting this makes Rex Ryan’s lovefest for the Steelers it does.”
And the media has taken notice.
Bragging Rights at Behind the Steel Curtain
Cudos for being ahead of the curve to Michael Bean of Behind the Steel Curtain. After praising Rex Ryan early in the week in his “Steelers Six Pack” Bean noted that:
Here's another reason why I think Ryan is more genius than bafoon. He's got the Jets quiet and focused this week…. Ryan knows the Steelers are more physical and battle tested than the Pats, and it's wise that he and his team have changed gears as they get ready for Sunday's AFC title game at Heinz Field.
A very astute observation.
A Head Dr.’s Attempt to Shrink It Down….
Bean in good company. By mid-week a psychologist felt that something was afoul and contacted Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette.
Bouchette thought enough of the head-doctor’s hypothesis that he printed it in PG Plus. Dr. Yagel argues:
He knows the Steelers are as tough as nails, he knows that if he gets us fired up it will work against his team. So the direct assault won't work. You're going to try and intimidate Hines Ward, you're going to try and bully James Harrison? But what's a scheming, New York, mad scientist of a coach to do? Kill them with kindness, throw them off their game by getting into their heads through the back door.
The good Dr. suggests that the solution is for the Steelers and Steelers Nation to respond with a full-volume roar in Heinz Field on Sunday. If the Ravens game is any indication, the Steelers Nation is up to the task.
Nonetheless, the fact that a seasoned, old-school beat writer like Ed Bouchette would print something like this just goes to show you how dramatically the media landscape has changed.
Mike Tomlin vs. ESPN
The public got another little peep behind the scenes of the workings of the professional football press.
Prior to the Ravens game, Bouchette reported that that ESPN reporter Bob Holtzman upset the Steelers by reporting that Pittsburgh had planned to field Antwan Randel El only to use another player in a trick play.
At issue was whether Holtzman had violated rules that prohibit members of the press from leaking what they see about a team’s game plans during practice. The problem was that Holtzman had not seen the Steelers practice, and he claimed that news item was fair game because it had supposedly come from two Steelers.
One has to wonder what really transpired. Regardless, Tomlin responded to Holtzman’s question about what he expected from the Jets, with “It depends on whether or not you give him my plays.”
Bouchette makes it clear that Tomlin wasn’t joking. Tomlin has had run ins with reporters before about this kind of stuff, attempting in vain to keep Anthony Smith’s “I Guarantee victory against the Patriots” comment out of the press.
Yes, the Roethlisberger Era Steelers Have Won a Playoff Game with the Running Game
We’ll round out this edition of the Watch Tower by picking (albeit) a very small bone with Gerry DuLac.
In his weekly chat, responding to a fan who suggests that the Steelers need to pound the ball to beat the Jets, Dulac rightly pointed out that the Steelers are paying Ben Roethlisberger 100 million dollars for a reason.
The then went on to claim that the Steelers had not won a playoff game because of their rushing since Ben joined the team.
Not true Gerry.
In fact, the Steelers beat the Jets at Heinz Field in 2004 behind the battering of Duce Stanley and Jerome Bettis….
….For the record I agree with Gerry’s essential point about this week’s game.
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