With the New York Jets taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday for the right to go to the Super Bowl, it's only the second time that the two teams have hooked up in the playoffs, and it will be the 21st overall meeting between the two AFC clubs. Rex Ryan is predicting "a three chinstrap game," and just when it looked like the Jets would behave themselves in the week leading up to the AFC Championship Game, what with no Tom Brady to pick on, Antonio Cromartie couldn't help himself and called out Hines Ward for his questionable on-field tactics. Here's a quick historical rundown of the New York Jets vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Not surprisingly, the Steelers won the first nine meetings between the two teams, starting in 1970 and going all the way into the late '80s. They were winning four Super Bowls, after all, while the Jets . . . um . . . weren't. The first matchup took place on November 8, 1970, with Pittsburgh winning, 21-17. Terry Hanratty was playing quarterback for the Steelers, and there were no Franco Harris or Lynn Swann yet, but the Jets were playing without the inured Joe Namath, Matt Snell and Emerson Boozer. While Frenchy Fuqua was scoring two touchdowns for Pittsburgh, the Jets were relying on Al Woodall and Bob Davis, who split the game at quarterback, and getting their two touchdowns from the obscure duo of Chuck Mercein and George Nook. Super Bowl III hero Jim Turner did boot a field goal, though.
Mixed in among those first nine games were the last-ever Jet game at Shea Stadium, in 1983, and the Jets' first game calling the Meadowlands their home, the following season. On October 30, 1988, the Jets finally put up a "W," defeating the Steelers, 24-20. Ken O'Brien was running the ship this time around in a duel with future Jet Bubby Brister. Freeman McNeil, Mickey Shuler and Johnny Hector all made their way into the end zone, while Gang Green's defense sacked Brister six times. In a footnote, Jet running back Nuu Faaola made one of his 20 career rushing attempts in that game, gaining 13 yards.
While the Steelers dominated early, the Jets have won three out of the last four regular-season meetings, with victories in 2003, 2007 and 2010. This season's win was the first ever for the Jets in Pittsburgh. The only playoff matchup occurred on January 15, 2005, which is, of course, a date to forget for Jet fans. After losing the final regular-season game to the Rams in overtime (and playing and losing yet another overtime game in November with the Ravens), the Jets defeated the Chargers, 20-17, in the first round of the playoffs, when Doug Brien kicked a 28-yard field goal in, yes, overtime to move on to the next round, against Pittsburgh.
The Jets quickly fell behind, 10-0, but Brien booted a 42-yarder and Santana Moss returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown to tie the score. The Jets took the lead in the third quarter, when Reggie Tongue intercepted a pass and ran it back 86 yards for a touchdown. But in the fourth quarter, the Steelers tied the game on a four-yard Ben Roethlisberger to Ward shovel pass. The Jets had two chances to win the game, but couldn't come through, as Brien clanked a 47-yard field-goal attempt off the lower-left corner of the cross bar with 1:58 remaining on the clock. And after David Barrett intercepted Roethlisberger, and the Jets drove down to the Steeler 26-yard line, Brien was wide left on a 43-yard attempt. The Jets won the coin toss in overtime, but had to punt on their first possession. Steeler kicker Jeff Reed came through for his team, booting a 35-yarder to win the game for Pittsburgh, 20-17.
The Steelers hold a 4-15 regular-season advantage and a 1-0 postseason edge. But does any of that mean anything for this Sunday? Well, no disrespect to Al Woodall, but he won't be playing quarterback for the Jets, so history probably doesn't mean much in this case. One thing we have learned, though, is that this one-sided rivalry has been littered with odd-named guys like Frenchy, Franco, Freeman, Bubby, Nuu and Tongue. But Nick Folk better hope he improves on his performance from last week or his new nickname may turn out to be "Doug Brien."
(For Jets news and analysis, check out SB Nation's Gang Green Nation.)