Sunday's game brings a difficult matchup for the Jets. Historically the Steelers have had our number. It is especially difficult to beat them in Pittsburgh. Revis is out. And Big Ben creates an extremely difficult matchup for us. The strength of our team is in our secondary's coverage, but Big Ben often extends plays for 5 or 6 seconds, a length of time no secondary can consistently maintain coverage. So, without Revis, as well as Thomas and Keller, what should we expect, and how do we counter Big Ben's strength?
First, a glimpse of the future. Thomas being out gives us a golden opportunity to give more snaps to Demario Davis. With Heath Miller presenting a formidable challenge in coverage, I say it's time to see what the rookie's got. Bart's way too slow to cover Miller, and I think Harris will also be at a disadvantage here, so unleash Davis. Use his speed to neutralize our biggest weakness on defense, covering the short stuff over the middle. Let's see what he's got.
Keller being out also gives us a glimpse of the future. It's time to find out if Cumberland has what it takes to take Keller's place. Keller is a prime candidate to target for cap savings for next year; if Cumberland can replace most of his production, that will allow us more breathing room to sign Revis. The future starts now. Let's target Cumberland and see what he brings. Time to find out if we can afford to let Keller walk. As Crack likes to say, time for Cumberland to put on the big boy pants and deliver.
It's also time to find out what Wilson can do. If he can handle the outside, we may let Cro walk next year. Cro has been great, but we may not have the luxury of continuing to pay his high salary. If Wilson can get it done, maybe we see a future without Cro. With draft picks being so cap friendly these days, maybe our future is Revis on one side, Wilson on the other and a high draft pick CB in the slot. That opens up cap flexibility, IF, and its a big IF, Wilson is ready. Day one of that possible future begins Sunday. Time to put on the big boy pants for Wilson too. Let's see what he's got.
Finally, speaking of our future, there is no more important piece of our future than Mark Sanchez. This is year 4. It's time to put up or consider moving on. #6 was outstanding last Sunday. More performances like that will give us confidence that we have the right guy at QB. But he has had similar performances in the past, only to follow up with such horrendous play we simply can't win with him. It's time he put up against a great D like Pitt's. It's time he followed up one great performance with another. It's time he put together a 6, 7, 8 game stretch of superb play. it's time he put away for good the one game good, two games bad style of performance he's been known for. It's time we can count on him to WIN some games when the Defense doesn't show up, and not just avoid losing games the Defense hands him. In short, it's time he performed like a 5th pick in the draft. I think he can do it, but if he can't, it's time to consider a glimpse of a future without Mark Sanchez.
Now we come all the way back to the heady first days of Rex's mad scientist, in your face, all out pressure defense ala 2009. I don't know what we have planned, but if I were to guess Rex's gameplan heading in, I might expect a blast from the past. I'd say our defense is gonna party like it's 2009. In 2009 Rex came here and installed a hyper aggressive, attacking, all out blitzing defense. We blitzed more than any team in the league, often with 5, 6 even 7 pass rushers, overloading sides, sending guys from all angles, leaving guys on coverage islands, even occasionally leaving guys completely uncovered, gambling we'd get to the QB before he found the wide open man. Most of the time, it worked. But over time teams adjusted and so did we, gradually getting away from the reckless, gambling, all out pass rushing team we were in 2009. Pettine gradually took over more of the defensive playcalling duties, and the blitz packages faded, giving way to more nickle and dime cover packages. For the most part it has worked out fine, but for this matchup I think we might flip the calendar pages back to 2009.
With Revis out, we are left with multiple matchup problems. Cro should be OK against Wallace, but Wilson might be overmatched against Brown, and Sanders and Cotch definitely present huge matchup problems for Trufant and Lankster. If I'm Pitt I'm spreading us out 4 and 5 wide and daring our coverage to stick with their WRs for the 4,5 or 6 seconds Big Ben is often able to buy. If we respond with nickle and dime max coverage packages, I think that is a losing game for us. Cro and maybe Wilson will be able to hold their own, but Trufant and Lankster will be lit up. I think without Revis the way to counter Big Ben is to put him down, repeatedly. That means back to 2009. All out blitzes, 5,6 7, even 8 pass rushers. LB blitzes, safety blitzes, bring everybody blitzes. Bring the house, don't give Ben time.
I doubt Redman or Dwyer can hurt us much. If they can, well, you can't cover everything, sometimes the other guys just beat you. But Big Ben, if he is allowed to sit back and take 4 or 5 or 6 seconds to throw, will pick us apart. I say Rex, dust off the playbook from 3 years ago, give us the exotic blitzes, give us guys coming from every angle, leave our CBs on islands and blitz, blitz, blitz Big Ben. Let the defense party like it's 2009, and put Big Ben on his Big Behind, repeatedly. That's how we'll have a fighting chance to win this one.