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Jets-Steelers Preview: Gang Green Travels To Heinz Field For Santonio Holmes' Homecoming

New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Sunday, Dec. 19, 4:15 p.m., EST

Location: Heinz Field: Pittsburgh, Pa.

TV Coverage: CBS

StatLine: Jets are 0-7 in franchise history playing against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

StatLine (II): The two teams have combined for 13 consecutive quarters without an offensive touchdown.

StatLine (III): According to NYDN's Manish Mehta, Steelers are holding opponents to 49 percent below their season rush averages.

Between The Numbers: Two Stout Run Defenses

  • Steelers rank No.1 against the rush and are giving up only 60.1 yards per game.
  • Jets rank No.3 against the rush and are giving up 88.5 yards per game.

New York Jets X-Factor: WR Santonio Holmes

Santonio Holmes returns to Pittsburgh to face his former team with whom he made one of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history just two seasons ago.  The Steelers were upset with Holmes after some off-the-field issues, and, in a cloud of smoke, they sent the big-play wide receiver to the great state of New Jersey for a fifth-round pick.

When the Jets have needed big plays on offense this year, Holmes has been Sanchez' go-to guy. He went through a stretch just a month ago where he came up with back-to-back walk-off touchdowns to lead the Jets to victory against Cleveland and Houston.

The Steelers run defense is phenomenal, and the way to beat them is to attack their secondary. It's safe to say Holmes will be motivated to stick it to his former team, and he will need to come up big if the Jets expect to win. He leads the Jets with 68.9 receiving yards per game and can expect plenty of targets on Sunday.

Pittsburgh Steelers X-Factor: WR Mike Wallace

Mike Wallace averages 20.6 yards per catch and is the sole game-changer on Pittsburgh's offensive unit. He does it with his lightning-quick speed.

With Jets' superstar CB Darrelle Revis suddenly having hamstring issues, this will be the match-up to watch on Sunday afternoon. Mike Wallace has lightning quick-speed and is the main game-changer on Pittsburgh's offensive unit.

QB Ben Roethlisberger may be great at extending the play, and WR Hines Ward is a solid possession receiver; but Wallace is their main vertical threat who can burn you for a touchdown in a matter of seconds.

The Jets have been stout against the run all season and I think they can keep RB Rashard Mendenhall at bay. A lot of how the Jets fare on defense will hinge on defending Wallace and keeping Pittsburgh out of the end zone.

You Must Make Adjustments, Schotty

Jets were completely predictable on offense in Sunday's game Vs. Miami as OC Brian Schottenheimer continues to disappoint with his playcalling. If they do that against the best defensive front in the NFL, they will be looking at a lot of "3rd and longs," and things can get ugly if they find themselves in strictly "passing" downs.

According to NYDN's Manish Mehta, Jets ran 62 percent of the time on first down last week and only averaged 2.5 yards per play on said downs. As a result, they averaged 9.2 yards to go on third down.

Against the Dolphins, TE Dustin Keller and WR Jerricho Cotchery combined for 24 targets (of Sanchez's 44 pass attempts), while Edwards saw only two passes thrown his way. Cotchery leads the Jets in drops this year, and Keller's production has dropped; we would like to see Holmes see the brunt of the targets this week playing against his former team.

Oh, and can we do something on first down besides running L.T. inside the tackles?

Bottom Line:

I think Pitt will be able to stop our running game which has really diminished in the second half of the season. As a result, the pressure will be put back on QB Mark Sanchez and the Jets may become a bit one-dimensional.  The only way to move the football against the Steelers' vaunted defense is to attack the secondary. In their three losses this season, they've given up 350, 288 and 250 passing yards in said games.

The Jets' offensive line has struggled of late and allowed Sanchez to be sacked six times last week. Expect Pitt to bring a lot of pressure on Sunday. Sanchez will have the make smart decisions with the football and limit his turnovers, or this game could get ugly. This matchup will be won or lost with his play. 

Jets have scored zero touchdowns in their last two games, and now must face mastermind DC Dick LeBeau and one of the top three defenses in the NFL. I just don't see it getting any easier for them.

The Steelers, outside of WR Mike Wallace don't scare me on offense; but this defense is good enough to win games by itself. The absence of S Troy Polamalu helps, but Jets' struggles on offense likely won't improve in one week, and the team that has looked suspect in cold weather will continue to in one of the toughest road environments in the NFL. 

Steelers 20, Jets 16