Before we begin, we would just like to apologize for typographical and template errors on last weeks game preview. We here at GGN realize you have high expectations when clicking on an article written by some guy calling himself "Bro Namath" and we aim to satisfy here at Gang Green Nation. Bro Namath was given an appropriate level of corporal punishment from a stranger he met on Craigslist prior to writing this article and has assured us that he will not make the same mistakes again. Enjoy the preview and thanks for using Gang Green Nation.
Where Each Team Is
The Jets are riding high after a fantastic performance by Geno Smith and the Jets offense last week against the Falcons. The Steelers are reeling after starting the first quarter of the season without a single win. Coach Mike Tomlin is attempting to right his team and has removed all recreational gaming from the Steelers team facilities. Because nothing gets people in gear quite like taking their ping pong and air hockey away.
Pittsburgh isn't the only team facing serious internal challenges. The Jets have just lost Kellen Winslow Jr. for 4 games for violating the leagues substance abuse policy. Antonio Cromartie is banged up and the Jets will be missing vital cogs in the form of Santonio Holmes and Dee Milliner. Antwan Barnes will be missed. Make no mistake, the Jets are far from 100% this weekend. However, the team has displayed at least the potential for genuine offensive competence for the first time in what feels like forever. Geno Smith has shown he can exploit weaknesses in defenses and lead teams on game winning drives. If the Steelers remain as weak in the trenches as they have been this is a very winnable game, especially considering the strength of the Jets defensive line.
Sister Site: Behind the Steel Curtain
Location: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ. Home of the 0-6 New York Football Giants.
Field: Open air, artificial turf.
Coverage: CBS. Home of your grandparents favorite television lineup.
Weather: Partly sunny with a High of 67. I have no idea what the difference between partly sunny and partly cloudy is but the good folks at the National Weather Service stopped taking my phone calls years ago.
Record: Steelers lead the all-time series 18-4.
What happened last time? The Steelers defeated the Jets by a score of 27-10 on September 16th, 2012.
Who is favored? Steelers are 3.5 favorite on the opening line according to SB Nation. Fox Sports has the Jets currently favored by 2.
(Players designated "Probable" status are omitted)
Out: Dee Milliner (CB) Hamstring, Santonio Holmes (WR) Hamstring.
Questionable: Oday Aboushi (T) Knee, Antonio Cromartie (CB) Knee.
Out: Markus Wheaton (WR) Finger.
Jets: On offense the Jets are 22nd in points, 14th in yards, 19th in the air and 11th on the ground. The Jets have steadily improved from one of the worst scoring teams to just a below average scoring team. The Jets have very slowly climbed the ranks of rushing teams while passing took a slight step backwards.
The Jets ranking on defense shows where the teams true strength is: the defensive line. The Jets are 22nd in points allowed, 2nd in yards allowed, 13th against the pass and 2nd against the run. The Jets have consistently been a nearly-immovable object up front. The Steelers will have a mess of a time trying to run Le'Veon Bell, Felix Jones, and the rest of the company against the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Damon Harrison.
Steelers: The Steelers are 29th in points scored, 19th in total yardage, 9th in pass yards and 32nd in rushing yards. The Steelers look pretty terrible on offense across the board so far except that they have been moving the chains by passing the ball quite effectively. This is a concern as the Jets will be less than 100% in the secondary this week.
On defense, the Steelers are 24th in points allowed, 10th in overall yards allowed, 5th in passing yards allowed and 25th against the run. The Steelers again are only really strong in the air, on both sides of the ball. Geno Smith likely won't have the same opportunities to exploit passing defenses that he did last week, so the Jets may need to rely on overpowering the Steelers below average rushing defense.
AP Pro ranking has the Jets at 19 and the Steelers ranked 29.
Random Fact: I've been to jail 7 times, not including Mexico.
Attacking the Steelers
Luckily for the Jets, the most fitting way to attack the Steelers would be on defense. The Steelers have been weak on the O line so far this year and the Jets have a monster of the a defensive line, it is indisputably the teams greatest asset at this time. The Steelers rushing attack is pitiful. The Jets have three players (Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, Geno Smith) with 99 yards or more rushing on the season, the Steelers have none. Bilal Powell has rushed for over a hundred more yards than the entire Pittburgh Steelers team combined on the year.
On the other hand, the Jets will very likely be weak in the secondary and that's a bit of an understatement. Antonio Cromartie is a very iffy Questionable on the injury report after hurting his knee in practice on a non-contact injury. Dee Milliner will not play. Ben Roethlisberger can move the ball and find the open man. "Big" Ben is just dying for a secondary to pick apart after this years awful start. This brings us to our:
Kyle Wilson and Darrin Walls absolutely have to be on their A game, Pittsburgh is a top-ten passing offense and both cornerbacks have proven to be exploitable in the past, and that is being somewhat kind. Both men need to turn and find the ball, and Walls specifically will have to step up his game in coverage. Walls tackling has been erratic but he's come up with a big play at least a couple of times in his short run with the Jets so far, so hope springs eternal.
Kellen Winslow II is gone for the immediate future, so Jeff Cumberland will need to step up and claim the number one spot. Cumberland was seen being yelled at by Marty on the sidelines after a penalty for 12 men in the huddle last week, presumably because he was the extra man although we can't be sure. Communication will be key, and Cumby needs solid play which he displayed at times last week.
The rotation of Powell, Ivory, and Mike Goodson will be critically relied on to keep the Steelers defense honest. The Steelers are near the bottom of the league in terms of run defenses so there should be ample opportunities for all backs to show what they can do with their snaps.
Steelers to Watch
Antonio Brown is the Steelers most productive receiver and the Steelers passing attack potentially hinges upon his success. Former Jet Jerricho Cotchery is a scoring threat alongside brown, and Emmanuel Sanders as well as Heath Miller are all favored targets of Ben Roethlisberger.
Felix Jones has received the majority of the snaps and is the Steelers most productive back, while Le'Veon Bell is utilized more in red zone situations. Isaac Redman, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and Jonathan Dwyer have been more or less neutralized by opposing defenses and the Steelers attempts at running back committees have failed thus far.
LaMarr Woodley has three sacks and a fumble on the year, which is almost all of the Steelers defensive stats for the year. The Steelers haven't intercepted a single ball and caused two fumbles while losing five balls in the air and five on the ground.
Bro's Bottom Line
You cannot let yourself be deceived by the Steelers poor record and arguably equally poor play. This team is dangerous with an 0-15 record and a bunch of inflatable dolls for an offensive line, don't trick yourself into thinking the Steelers can't move the ball on a bruised Jets defense.
Geno Smith has proven he's capable of driving down the field without the help of Santonio Holmes, and Kellen Winslow while a pleasant surprise does not make or break the offense. Winslow will be missed in red zone situations like last week against the Falcons, but Jeff Cumberland is a capable tight end who has made some plays this year.
The major question and the only thing keeping me from drinking the kool-aid this week is the Jets injury woes in the secondary. A Walls-Wilson starting tandem at CB against a top-ten pass attack scares the bodily function of your choice right out of me. The Jets front seven is going to have to feast on the Steelers weak push up front and take them down in the backfield in order to win.
It can be done.