Rex Ryan has been on an opposite sideline from Ben Roethlisberger 15 times dating back to the Steelers quarterback's NFL debut two games into the 2004 campaign in Baltimore.
But Ryan, a former defensive line coach and defensive coordinator with the Ravens, never has seen the Roethlisberger who will show up to challenge Ryan's New York Jets on Sunday in New Jersey.
"I've never seen him this hot," Ryan acknowledged in a conference call with Pittsburgh media.
No one has.
Roethlisberger set an NFL record for touchdown passes in consecutive games by throwing for six on Oct. 26 against Indianapolis and six more last Sunday night against Baltimore. The rest of his game Ryan has found quite recognizable.
"The same guy I've always seen," Ryan assessed. "So it's the same nightmare. He's still a great quarterback. He can make all the throws and hangs in there. Their vertical passing game has been absolutely tremendous. He's really using (running back Le'Veon) Bell out of the backfield a bunch, and that's a big help. (Wide receiver) Antonio Brown has been lighting it up, as well.
"I don't know if the NFL has ever seen a two-game stretch like this, 12 touchdowns (passing) in two games."
Ryan apparently didn't get the memo about the NFL record. But his perspective on Roethlisberger and the Steelers was no less intriguing in advance of Sunday's Steelers-Jets clash.
It's common for NFL coaches to lavish praise upon an upcoming opponent. But when talking about the Steelers, Ryan did so not just as a coach who is about to play the Steelers but also as one who went against them two times a season from 1999 through 2008 as an assistant coach with the Ravens, and as one who has opposed them four more times since 2009 as the Jets' coach.
Ryan battled the Steelers in AFC Championship Games in 2008 (with the Ravens) and in 2010 (with the Jets). So when he speaks of the Steelers, he does so from a wealth of firsthand experience.
Following are some of Ryan's thoughts on Steelers not named Roethlisberger:
On James Harrison and Brett Keisel: "Those guys, they still play. These guys are Steelers. I know Harrison went other places (Cincinnati), but he is as much a Pittsburgh Steeler as they get. He has four sacks. He plays his butt off. He might not be as good as he once was, but he was coming from the mountain top. He is still doing a great job. Keisel is the same way."
On Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor: "I am glad Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor aren't playing this week. Those are two of my favorites, as well. I hope they both have a speedy recovery. Both of those guys are Steelers, as well. I am glad we don't have to face them.
"The thing that I love about them is that they are smart, instinctive and tough asses, all those guys. That makes up the Steelers team, this Mike Tomlin team, and that's what you expect from them. That's what those guys bring."
On the Steelers' toughness**: "It shows up every day. It shows up every game. It shows up in their mentality and the way they play, you name it. They bring that mentality to it. Once you establish that kind of tradition, they don't let go of it and they won't let the young guys let go of it, either. It's the same thing we established in Baltimore when I was there with that defense. You still see it. The numbers don't say they are quite as good as they've been in the past, but that's still the Pittsburgh Steelers out there."
On defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and the staff: "They have Dick LeBeau, one of the guys I really respect and admire. He's still there heading up the defense. And they have (assistant head coach/defensive line coach) John Mitchell and all their coaches. It's a great staff. They are well coached. They are disciplined. And I would say they are tough. There are some tough dudes over there."
On Antonio Brown: "He's way different than most of these receivers. Other small receivers have some production but not like this guy. He plays strong, he straight-arms and all that stuff. He's hard to tackle. He's a really outstanding receiver, a phenomenal receiver, can do it all."