PITTSBURGH -- The New York Jets didn't sound like losers
when they left Pittsburgh with a 17-6 loss last month, openly
wishing for a postseason rematch and another chance to beat the
team with the NFL's best record.
Their reaction? Be careful what you wish for.
"Wow. He's a fortune teller or something?" wide receiver Hines
Ward said, referring to Ellis' prediction the Jets would win this
time. "We know they have a great ballclub. 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 lot more at stake
... and I'm going to turn it up a notch, too."
The Jets' loss, keyed by three Chad Pennington interceptions, started them on a late-season tailspin of three
defeats 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 oh-so-confident
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 last weekend to earn their
return trip to Pittsburgh. The Steelers went 8-0 at home during the
first 15-1 season in franchise history.
The teams meet again Saturday in Pittsburgh.
"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
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
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 University
of Pittsburgh star 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 closer to the Super
Bowl should be motivation enough for any 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 to date,
completing just nine of 19 passes -- one of only two games he's had
a completion percentage below 50 -- for 144 yards. He had 24 yards
passing at halftime, and the Jets outgained the Steelers 296-262.
"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 Shaun is saying that, we've still got
to play the game on Saturday. I didn't play the last game, so we'll