NFL PLAYOFFS Wish granted, Jets get Pittsburgh
The Steelers beat the Jets in their regular season meeting, 17-6.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The New York Jets didn't sound like losers when they left Pittsburgh with a 17-6 loss last month, openly wishing for a playoffs rematch and another chance to beat the NFL's best-record team.
The Steelers, reminded Tuesday of those confident comments by defensive end Shaun Ellis and running back Curtis Martin, seemed more amused than motivated. Their reaction? Be careful what you wish for.
"Wow. He's a fortuneteller or something?" wide receiver Hines Ward said of Ellis' prediction that the Jets would win this time. "We know they have a great ball club. We won the first one, we know it wasn't an easy win, but the playoffs are a totally different situation. It's loser go home, there's a lot more at stake ... and I'm going to turn it up a notch, too."
The Jets' loss, keyed by three Chad Pennington-thrown interceptions, started them on a late-season tailspin of three losses in four games that nearly kept them out of the playoffs. If the Steelers hadn't beaten Buffalo on Jan. 2, the Bills -- not the Jets -- would have advanced to the postseason.
Regardless, Ellis said Tuesday he stands by his Dec. 12 postgame comments: "If we come back here, we'll beat them. I honestly believe that with my heart. They are a great team but, if we come back here, I really think we'll beat them."
Ellis said his words merely reflected his confidence in the Jets, who upset the Chargers 20-17 Saturday to earn their return trip to Pittsburgh. The Steelers went 8-0 at home during the first 15-1 season in franchise history.
"I still believe that," Ellis said. "We have to go there and show them, prove it. We have to just back it up. We're ready to play them, that's all I can say. I honestly, truly believe that in my heart and I still believe it in my heart. My mind is not going to change."
Steelers All-Pro linebacker James Farrior, a former Jets teammate of Ellis, wondered if Ellis' mouth worked a little ahead of his mind.
"We heard it, but that's just talk," Farrior said. "I know Shaun's a great player but sometimes he lets his words get the best of him. He got what he wished for, so we'll see what happens."
Boiling with confidence
Martin, the NFL's leading rusher, expressed disappointment after being limited to 72 yards on 24 carries in Pittsburgh and said he wanted a rematch in his hometown. Like Ellis, the former Pitt standout doesn't regret saying that now.
"We're going in there expecting to win," Martin said Tuesday. "There's no doubts in our mind."
Ellis doesn't think his comments will give the Steelers any extra incentive, since the chance to advance a game closer to the Super Bowl should be motivation enough for any NFL player.
"It don't even matter what I said," Ellis said. "We've got to go out there and play ball. Everybody says a lot of things. Once you get between the lines, hey, it's show up or put up."
Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress missed last month's game with a sore hamstring, and his absence left rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger without his top downfield threat. With Burress out, the Jets often moved their safeties up to the line of scrimmage to defend the run, and the Steelers didn't get much going on the ground until Jerome Bettis ran for a touchdown and threw for another during a decisive 14-point fourth quarter.
Roethlisberger played perhaps his worst NFL game, completing 9-of-19 passes -- one of only two games he's had a completion percentage below 50 -- for 144 yards.
"But it's the playoffs, everybody's here because you're obviously a good football team," Burress said. "Not taking anything from them, even if Shawn is saying that, we've still got to play the game on Saturday. I didn't play the last game, so we'll see."