There hasn’t been much Jets-Steelers trash talk this week in advance of the AFC Championship Game, but Mike Pettine may have provided some fodder when he said Thursday that the Jets have a nickname for Steelers wideout Hines Ward.
“Our guys I think called him the toughest guy in the league when nobody’s looking,” Pettine said.
Ward has a reputation for throwing punishing blind-side blocks to the head. He was voted the NFL’s dirtiest player in a Sports Illustrated poll of players last season.
“That’s the mentality. And again, that works for them,” Pettine said. “He’s kind of the spark that gets them going and we are well aware of it.”
The Jets put together a highlight tape of Ward’s blocks before their last trip to Pittsburgh in Week 15.
“I think our guys have played against them enough to know what he’s all about,” Pettine said.
HIGH ON HARRIS: Both Pettine and Rex Ryan were extremely complimentary of the even-keeled linebacker David Harris on Thursday. Pettine said Harris’ calm demeanor is a valuable asset that helps keep things in balance for a unit that features emotional players like LB Bart Scott.
“I’d hate to play poker with Dave,” Pettine said. “I don’t know if his pulse ever gets above 75. It’s rare to see him get fired up and it’s rare to see him get real down.”
Pettine said Harris calls the plays for the Jets defense in a “borderline robotic” fashion that seems to help players relax in stressful situations.
“I think it’s a very calming influence for our guys when all things are – when all hell is breaking loose out there,” Pettine said.
Harris, who will be a free-agent at the end of the NFL’s calendar year, finished the regular season with a team-high 99 tackles. He leads the NFL with 21 postseason tackles (safety Eric Smith is second on that list with 20 tackles).
Ryan added that Harris has “more personality than people think” and a “great passion for the game.”
“He’s kind of the quiet storm,” Ryan said.