Howdy from Heinz.
The Jets’ first buses have arrived at Heinz Field and about half the team is now in the visitors’ locker room. The buses parked outside, next to the ramp into the stadium, and the players came off mostly single-file, quiet, focused. Kellen Clemens was first off, followed by Steve Weatherford, Tony Richardson, Mike Tannenbaum and the rest.
Guard Matt Slauson came in from outside without a coat and with a long-sleeved shirt, sleeves rolled up. He looks ready to rumble in frigid Pittsburgh. Will he duplicate B.J. Askew, who warmed up topless in the 2-degree windchill of Green Bay in 2006? Not likely, but then again …
I took the early equipment bus over from one of the team hotels across the river to Heinz and assumed the position in the pressbox a little earlier than usual. The stadium is still silent and empty in all its yellow and black splendor but soon it will be filled with Steelers (and more than a few Jets) crazies attempting to influence today’s AFC Championship Game and send their side on to North Texas for Super Bowl XLV.
No question this city loves its Stillers. Walking around town last night, I noticed more than the usual number of places of employment, closed for Saturday night, displaying GO STEELERS signs in their windows.
In the middle of town, at a darkened street corner — I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, couldn’t see the likely watering hole from whence it emanated from — I heard the voice of the late, great Curt Gowdy. Some establishment was piping the replay of Gowdy’s call of Super Bowl XIII between the Steelers and Cowboys.
Marc-Andre Fleury, the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender who posted the 3-2 win over Carolina on Saturday night, just around the corner at Consol Energy Center, came back on ice to receive his first star of the game. He was still wearing his hockey uniform, of course, but also was sporting a Steelers helmet and was waving a Terrible Towel.
Yep, they love their Steelers here. But the Jets’ plan in the next six hours or so is undeniably to disappoint them.
That got me to thinking what the result was of teams that beat an opponent on the road in the regular season, then met that team again in the postseason. Hmmm, that didn’t sound as if it would favor the road team the second time around, would it?
But just as the myth of “You can’t sweep a team in three games in a season” isn’t true, neither is the urban legend that “You can’t beat a team twice in a year on its homefield.”
Since 2000, and including some games already played this postseason, the record favors the home team getting some payback, but only slightly. In 19 such pairs of games, the home team’s record in the playoffs is 11-8.
The Jets have experienced this before. In 2009 they won at Indianapolis in Game 15, then, a day shy of a year ago, lost to the Colts in the AFC title game. In 2006 they won at New England in the RS, lost in the WC game. In 2001 the (in)famous back-to-back Oakland trips occurred, with a win to get in to end the regular season, followed by a 38-24 wild-card loss to the Raiders six days later.
But in 2004 the Jets held off the Chargers in San Diego in Week 2 and did the same in overtime in the AFC Wild Card Game.
Suffice to say the Green & White are not worried about any historical trends as they plan on adding a championship-game bookend victory to their 22-17 triumph on this very field on Dec. 19.
Well, not exactly on this very field. Heinz Field was resodded on Jan. 8, paid for by the NFL for damage done to the surface from constructing the hockey rink for the Winter Classic between the Penguins and the Capitals.
So Jets-Steelers will be only the second game played on this winter grass, after last week’s Steelers-Ravens divisional-round game. The field looks good — in fact great compared to the chewed-up sod that helped doom Doug Brien and the Jets back in January 2005. The tarp, I’ve been told, was removed earlier today to help dry out the field a little and prevent it from becoming slick in the colder air that will move in as the afternoon turns into evening.
That’s the early report from Pitt. I’ll update you on more of the pregame doings and inactive lists around 5:30 p.m., and then an hour after that we’ll get it on at Heinz.
Tags: Curt Gowdy, Heinz Field, Kellen Clemens, Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Slauson, Pittsburgh Penguins, PIttsburgh Steelers
Posted in Randy Lange | 4 Comments »