The Jets will head to Heinz Field in week two to try and cement their place as an AFC contender and eliminate the contender tag that has followed them around for much of the pre-season. With the Jets coming off a statement 48-28 victory against divisional opponents the Buffalo Bills, they will face a Steelers team desperate to bounce back and avoid their first 0-2 start in a decade following their 31-19 defeat to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
The Steelers have always been a problematic opponent for the Jets through history, we are just 4-17 against them all time and 1-8 at Heinz Field, our last game in Pittsburgh was of course the extremely painful 24-19 AFC Championship loss in January 2011. However for the Jets there is reason for optimism..
Going into the regular season opener the Jets offenss had a series of unanswered questions, can we protect the Quarterback? can Mark Sanchez throw down the field? can he do so without relying on Dustin Keller as much? can rookie Stephen Hill make an immediate impact?....so to answer those questions we have 0 sacks allowed, Sanchez 19-27 for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns, Dustin Keller had one catch for 7 yards and Stephen Hill had 5 receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns, that's an A* star answer if I have ever seen one.
However the Jets will face a tougher test both on opponent and venue. Pittsburgh is an old team, some see that as a weakness but as Rex Ryan said this week, they are veterans they are smart and they won't beat themselves. The Steelers will be welcoming back safety Ryan Clark who sat out the opener due to a sickle cell trait that flairs in altitude (Denver). However they may be without Troy Polamalu and James Harrison as neither player has practised this week.
However the task at hand just got a whole lot harder as All Pro Cornerback Darrelle Revis has been ruled out with a concussion, losing the best defensive player on your team and best cornerback in the league before you face the likes of Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders is never ideal. However Kyle Wilson who came up with an impressive interception against the Bills will move to the outside and I have faith he will do a good job. We will be relying on Isaiah Trufant and Ellis Lankster to cover the slot, both players will see an increase in the percentage of defensive snaps they are involved in. (14% against the Bills)
Despite the winning record against the Jets, Big Ben has not always fared so well. He has won three of four home games against the Jets, however he has tossed 6 interceptions in comparison to two touchdowns and actually has a very poor 56.5 rating against the Jets at Heinz Field. If we can continue to bring pressure on Ben, we could get him to go into Jay Cutler mode and made some throws that should not be attempted by anyone not named Manning or Montana.
In 2011 the Steelers ranked #1 in total defense in the league allowing just 271 yards per game and were one of the least penalised units. The Jets of course were not far behind ranked #5 overall. Whenever these two teams face each other, it's a battle in the trenches. who can win the line of scrimmage? with Sione Pouha back in the line-up this week for the Jets to go with Kenrick Ellis, Muhammad Wilkerson, Mike DeVito and Quinton Coples, the patched up Steelers offensive line is going to have it's work cut out protecting Big Ben.
It's a tough one to call, we haven't had much success against the Steelers we've only won one game at Heinz field. However I think that can change this Sunday if all our units show up like they did against Buffalo. Mark will come under a lot of pressure, far more than he did against Buffalo and this is going to show us if Mark has taken the next step. Good Quarterbacks perform well when give the time to throw, great quarterbacks can work under pressure and still complete important passes, it's time for Mark to show that he can be a great Quarterback.
We need to get the run game going early, the Steelers are stout and the offensive line will need to get more of a push that they did against Buffalo, we also need to see Joe McKnight involved in more than 5% of offensive plays. Not to mention the Tebow factor. Everyone will remember that Tebow led the Bronco's to an OT victory against the Steelers last year in the play-offs. Tebow threw for over 300 yards and two scores without any interceptions and rushed for another 50 yards and a score. He was boxed up by Buffalo, however his misdirection and power may serve us better in week 2 against the Steelers.
We're in for a great game and I can't wait for this show to get going.