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Jets, Steelers full of playmakers ; Offensive stars often overlooked

PITTSBURGH -- The rundown nearly always begins with the names Polamalu and Harrison, Revis and Scott. Fair enough, because defense is the calling card for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets.

Look at the other side of the ball, though, and the list is impressive: Roethlisberger, Ward and Wallace; Tomlinson, Holmes and an emerging Sanchez.

Yes, the teams playing for the AFC championship on Sunday have playmakers on offense, too.

Does that mean Heinz Field's scoreboards will light up with points? Don't count on that.

But count on some of those offensive standouts having a significant impact.

Santonio Holmes, for instance, was a postseason star for the Steelers two years ago, when they won their record sixth championship, and is doing it again this month in his first playoffs since being traded to New York. He even admits his lunging touchdown catch in last week's victory at New England probably was more difficult than the reception from Ben Roethlisberger to beat Arizona in the Super Bowl.

Regardless, they were huge plays.

"Your mindset has to be you are going to be the guy to make that play," Holmes says.

Just as a coach's mindset has to be to get the ball to a guy like Holmes.

"Having not really followed the Steelers, other than some of the playoff games and stuff that they have done," Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said, "every time you look at the stats -- which we all kind of do throughout the course of the year -- you always saw his name at the top of the big-play list, catches over 20 yards, things like that."

The Steelers (13-4) have a guy like that in Hines Ward, who has been coming through for a mere 13 seasons. And another in Mike Wallace, the speedy second-year wideout from Mississippi.

Ward no longer is the top target, although his 59 receptions were just one less than Wallace had. Because he does so much else -- block as well as any receiver in the game, according to Jets coach Rex Ryan; calm younger players in the locker room, on the sideline and on the field -- Ward remains as much a key as Wallace, who had 10 TD catches and averaged 21.0 yards a reception, tops in the AFC among regulars.

"He brings guys to his level," Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said. "He is so smart that if and when a play breaks down, he has a great camaraderie with Ben and a great feel of which way he is going. And it's also computed in his brain what the coverage was. He will find a spot, or he is strong enough to shake his guy loose. He is one of the best of improvising that we have, along with our quarterback."

And Wallace?

"That kid's about as good a vertical receiver as there is in the game right now," Ryan said.

Which leads to another question:

"So who do you put him on?" Ryan asks.

One of your playmakers, of course. Which is where the likes of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie come into the picture. Pittsburgh ranked second overall in defense and the Jets third.

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