"We love it when somebody's in man," said Antonio Brown. "You've just got to beat your man."
The Pittsburgh receivers aren't about to back down.
"We always look forward to somebody coming down and getting in your face," said Steelers receiver Mike Wallace, himself a Pro Bowl player. "It's man versus man. Anytime you can get that, it's an opportunity to go out and show what you can do."
What the Steelers can do is diversify perhaps as well as any team in the NFL.
Four different players caught at least four passes for more than 50 yards in last week's 30-19 loss at Denver. And while the Steelers lost that game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's ability to spread the wealth caught the eye of Jets head coach Rex Ryan.
"Their group is explosive. Their speed is incredible," said Ryan. "I think Antonio Brown is one of the most underrated players in the league. He made the Pro Bowl last year as a returner but he is the only guy in NFL history to have 1,000 yards as a returner and in the same season have 1,000 yards as a receiver. That tells you what kind of athlete he is. Then they have Mike Wallace, who can blow the top off of a defense. Those two are impressive. Emmanuel Sanders doesn't get as much attention as the other two, but he is a tremendous receiver in his own right."
Ryan should know. Though the Steelers didn't play the Jets in 2011, they met twice during the 2010 season, with New York winning, 22-17, in the regular season and the Steelers winning the rematch, 24-19 in the AFC Championship.
Wallace, Sanders and Brown combined for 17 receptions for 195 yards in the first meeting. While that number dropped to 3 catches for 40 yards in the rematch as the Steelers attempted just 19 passes on a cold, windy day, Ryan knows the difficulty of matching up against Pittsburgh's receivers.
But he trusts the ability of his cornerbacks.
"We are fortunate that we have some great man-cover cornerbacks," Ryan said. "A lot of times we don't double team. A lot of times we will put our guys out there on their islands, especially Darrelle Revis. We will see. Certainly, we have to mix things up with the Steelers. Their two receivers (Brown and Wallace) are explosive guys. Then you add Sanders, which makes it difficult. And they have Jerricho Cotchery. I have a ton of admiration for him. He is a tremendous receiver as well."
The Steelers have their share of admiration for the Jets' defensive backfield as well, though there is some question as to whether Revis, a former Pitt star and Aliquippa native, will play this week after suffering a concussion in New York's 48-28 win last week against Buffalo.
Ryan said Revis hasn't been cleared for contact, but is able to do some running.
"I think Revis gets a lot of the talk and deservedly so. He's one of the best," said Roethlisberger. "But, I think it's unfair to the rest of that secondary, especially Antonio Cromartie. He's a great, long DB and ballhawker who makes plays. I don't know if he gets the credit that he is due. A lot of it is because of 'Revis Island' and all of the stuff they say and it is deserved. Their whole secondary is very good."
(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.)
Read the transcript of the Mike Wallace interview here.
Read the transcript of the Ben Roethlisberger interview here.