Steelers-Jets features matchup between two of league's kiddie coaches Print
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Thursday, 15 November 2007 15:34
NFL Headline News

 EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -There won't be any nap times or snack breaks when two of the NFL's kiddie coaches lead their teams at Giants Stadium. It'll be serious, big-boy business Sunday for Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin and the New York Jets' Eric Mangini.
``Age is not a factor in determining wins and losses, so the standard that everyone else upholds to, we uphold to,'' Tomlin said. ``They don't give us any diaper discounts.''
The 35-year-old Tomlin is enjoying a successful rookie season, while Mangini is a year older and struggling through a disappointing second campaign. Only Oakland's Lane Kiffin, at 32, is younger.
Both Tomlin and Mangini are part of what appears to be a growing movement in the league to hire younger coaches with fresh ideas. Mangini's rookie success - 10-6 and a playoff appearance - might have helped open the doors for both Tomlin and Kiffin.
``I'm not sure how that played out or what went into the decision to hire any of the new coaches,'' Mangini said. ``But there are two younger guys now, so (I'm) just bumping up the old-age ladder.''
Mangini would also like to bump up his team's win total after a 1-8 start, including six straight losses, but it certainly won't be easy. Pittsburgh (7-2) leads the league in four defensive categories: overall defense, rushing, passing and scoring.
``I tell you what, I've seen a lot of good defenses, but that one is not one to look forward to,'' said wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who expects to play after missing a game with a concussion.
Kellen Clemens will be making his third NFL start, and second since being made the starter ahead of Chad Pennington. His first start was against Baltimore in Week 2 and he fared well against one of the league's top defenses.
``As far as bringing pressure, there are a lot of similarities,'' Clemens said. ``They're very aggressive defenses.''
It might be a tough day for running back Thomas Jones. Pittsburgh hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 34 consecutive games, dating to Edgerrin James' 124-yard effort in Week 12 of the 2005 season.
``We never look past a team,'' cornerback Ike Taylor said. ``We leave that up to the media. They look into the future. We just look at what's ahead of it, and that's where we're at with the Jets.''
When Mangini came to the Jets, he brought New England's 3-4 defense along. It was a move that has been often criticized, especially because New York seems to lack the personnel necessary to successfully run it. On the flip side, Tomlin stuck with the defense that was in place for the Steelers rather than make wholesale changes. That philosophy has worked wonders so far for Pittsburgh.
``I think anything other than staying with the 3-4 would not have been driven by the desire to win,'' Tomlin said. ``We had a great scheme, we had great continuity with our players and the guys that fit that scheme, so it wasn't broken. It wasn't my intention to fix it. I'm interested in winning football games. I'm not interested in putting my stamp on the defense because that happens to be my area of expertise. I'm the head coach of this football team and our job is to win as many games as we possibly can.''
The Steelers have won three straight, including a tough 31-28 victory last weekend against Cleveland. Pittsburgh has also dominated New York, winning 17 of 19 meetings, including the postseason.
``You know it's going to be tough because they maybe have nothing going for them right now and have nothing to lose,'' running back Willie Parker said. ``And we're a team trying to be on the rise and fight for first place and all these good things. But they're a good team; they just aren't playing together right now. Hopefully they'll bring that 30th- or 31st-ranked rushing defense against us.''
Actually, the Jets are ranked 32nd - dead last - against the run. Parker is second in the NFL to Minnesota's Adrian Peterson with 873 yards rushing, and averages 4.1 yards per carry.
``At this point, it doesn't matter who we play or who we're playing,'' safety Kerry Rhodes said. ``We just have to come out and be competitive and try to make a game of it.''
The Jets will have to not only focus on Parker, but also the suddenly fleet-footed Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers quarterback had a career-long 30-yard touchdown rumble last Sunday. He has also thrown a career-high 22 touchdown passes, including at least one in each of his last 14 games, and credits new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians for the Steelers' impressive play.
``We're more balanced,'' Roethlisberger said. ``Bruce has us believing in what we're doing and if you look at the numbers we put up, they might be a little skewed because we're up late in games and we run the ball out. But early in games we're much more balanced and I think we're unpredictable.''
If there's one weakness for the Steelers, it could be on special teams. After giving up a 100-yard return to Joshua Cribbs last week, Pittsburgh will face Leon Washington on Sunday. Washington leads the league in kickoff return average and is the 11th player in NFL history to have at least three TD returns in a season.
``We look forward to the challenge,'' linebacker Clint Kriewaldt said. ``I know I am after what we did last week and what we put on tape and what we showed everybody. It's embarrassing, so I can't wait to get back out there this week and hopefully show everybody what we really can do.''
 

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