The circus is coming to town. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's immediate priority is making sure the sideshow doesn't become the main event.
He stood under that big top only eight months ago e_SEmD with Tim Tebow as the ringmaster e_SEmD and Tomlin is not the least bit interested in a repeat performance, this time by the New York Jets.
"I really think what we saw in their last game is just the tip of the iceberg," Tomlin said, referring to Tebow's role in a wildcat offense during the Jets' 48-28 romp over the Bills on Sunday.
Tebow, of course, masterminded the Steelers' stunning ouster from the AFC playoffs in January by playing the type of game they clearly didn't believe he had in him. An unpolished passer, he threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns against a defense that appeared to dismiss his throwing ability, and he also ran for 50 yards and another score during the Broncos' 29-23 win.
Now, only a few days since the Steelers returned to Denver and lost to a far-different type of quarterback, future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, guess who's coming to Sunday dinner at Heinz Field?
Only this time Tebow is in a far-reduced role than what he had with the Broncos, and one that some Jets fans already wish were trimmed down more. Tebow was so ineffective in the wildcat Sunday, he was booed at one point when he replaced Mark Sanchez.
Tebow was on the field for 12 plays e_SEmD eight under center, one as an H-back and three on, get this, special teams. His biggest contribution was recovering an onsides kick; he didn't complete a pass and he ran for 11 yards on five carries.
Still, Tomlin insisted Tuesday the Steelers will devote practice time to defending Tebow, even though Sanchez is coming off a career game statistically: 19 of 27 for 266 yards and three touchdowns. Sanchez also led the Jets past the Steelers the last time he played a regular-season game in Heinz two years ago.
"It will require some extra work on our part," Tomlin said of the wildcat.
"It will not be an extended or unusual extra amount of work in preparation."
The wildcat surfaced when Tony Sparano, then the Dolphins coach, used running back Ronnie Brown as a single-wing type tailback who could rush or pass. When Tebow was tormenting the Steelers on Jan. 8 in Denver, he operated out of a spread offense rather than a wildcat.
Jets coach Rex Ryan hired Sparano as his offensive coordinator with the reasoning that the wildcat would force defenses to spend time preparing for it e_SEmD and, thus, less time getting ready for the conventional Sanchez offense.
"They (the Bills) did a nice job against the wildcat, but it's something you have to prepare for," Ryan said. "As much time as that team spent on the wildcat, maybe it took away from some other preparation."
And if any team is determined to be prepared for Tebow from here on out, it's the Steelers.
Ryan also likes having Tebow on the field because the extra manpower devoted to him means the receivers often are in man-to-man coverage e_SEmD or what the Steelers were playing when Demaryius Thomas beat Ike Taylor on the 80-yard touchdown play that ended their 2011 season.
However, the offense generated so little during the preseason, and so much press coverage e_SEmD ESPN practically became embedded in the Jets camp e_SEmD that the New York Post parodied the circus-like atmosphere by portraying Ryan, Sanchez and Tebow as clowns in a caricature.
The Jets promptly went out and produced a franchise opening-game record 48 points against the Bills.
This week, the Steelers don't want the Jets sending in those clowns again.
"It's a big week for us," Tomlin said. And not just because the Steelers are trying to avoid going 0-2 for the first time since 2002.
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