The last time the New York Jets visited Heinz Field they were a game away from the Super Bowl. They were also a respected team that was viewed by many as worthy of an AFC title. On Sunday Gang Green will look to recapture that reputation as a dangerous football team. One that left there the moment they walked off after a devastating 24-19 loss in the conference championship on January 23, 2011.
Since then, the Jets have endured the crash of an 8-8 season and the two year long exit of an offensive coordinator and key pieces to the early Ryan era clubs such as Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith. The team has also in that time, ushered in the idea of a more humbled media approach. This along with the high profile additions of Tim Tebow, and a host of youth and athleticism at various positions.
This Sunday’s game against the Steelers doesn’t carry along with it the same sky high stakes as the AFC championship did. What it CAN provide for the Jets though, is a bridge between THOSE Jets and these new ones. A game where a solid performance could result in the Jets once again being perceived as a viable threat in the AFC for the first time since that crushing defeat sent Mike Tomlin’s squad not Rex Ryan’s, off to face the Packers.
Prior to last Sunday’s surprising 48-28 win over the Bills, the 2012 Jets were labeled as a clown car steeped in problems on offense and mired in sideshow controversies. With more potential chemistry issues like the ones they suffered in 2011perhaps on the way.
A trip to Heinz field, a possible hornets nest given the Steelers 0-1 start and the Steel city’s passion for it’s team, might look like a disaster waiting to happen for the Jets on paper. Even despite Gang Green’s impressive week output against the Bills. Especially when factoring in the health concerns of Darrelle Revis and the return of James Harrison to to the lineup.
Can Ryan and Co. pick up on the theme of Heinz being the last place that the Jets were taken seriously as a football team? A win in week two would go a long way towards putting to rest the ghosts of 2011.