This week I had the pleasure of posing a few questions regarding Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to Jeff Hartmann, Editor in Chief over at Behind The Steel Curtain, SBN's excellent Pittsburgh Steelers site. Here is what Jeff had to say.
Question 1. How have teams effectively limited Antonio Brown
in the past? He is great, but there have been some games where he's been a non-factor. In those games what have teams done to limit him? Is there a way to take him out of the game, and do you think the Jets
have the personnel to do so?
Answer: The majority of times an opponent has slowed down Antonio Brown they have devoted their entire defensive scheme to stopping him. Bracketed coverage, double teams and multiple looks to slow him down. Few have been successful, but when teams typically do this, another member of the team's offense steps up and has a big day. Sammie Coates, Markus Wheaton and Le'Veon Bell could all have big days if the Jets plan on selling out to slow down No. 84.
Question 2. How good is the Steelers' pass protection, and how do you see it holding up against the Jets pass rush?
Answer: The Steelers offensive line has been inconsistent this season, and also has some huge injuries at right tackle heading into Week 5. The Steelers offensive game plan will certainly have to change to make sure Ben Roethlisberger stays upright and healthy. Look for Pittsburgh to have a lot of tight end help over Chris Hubbard, third string tackle, on the right side, and a lot of pass protections being sent to his side.
Question 3. Antonio Brown is awesome, of course, but the Steelers have not really developed much of a second option among the receivers so far this year. Who is the best bet among the Steelers' receivers to emerge as a reliable second option, and what specific skill sets do they bring to the table against the Jets?
Answer: Believe it or not, due to Markus Wheaton's injured shoulder early this season, it has been Sammie Coates who has stepped up. He is averaging over 30-yards per catch, and his size and speed has made him a deep threat for any opposing defense. Despite stats which aren't that impressive, Wheaton will get back on track soon, and Darrius Heyward-Bey can still contribute in multiple ways. Although they don't have that guaranteed No. 2 like they do when Martavis Bryant is on the field, this wide receiver unit is still pretty deep.
Question 4. Could you tell us one player on offense and one on defense who the casual football fan may not know much about, but Steelers' fans know are special players? What makes them so good?
Answer: On offense I would have to suggest tight end Jesse James. He is a second year player out of Penn State and has filled in admirably for the retired Heath Miller. He is big, strong and a great target for Ben Roethlisberger when things break down. He is still working on his blocking, but he can be an X-Factor in this game Sunday. On defense I would suggest Vince Williams. He will be making his second straight start of the season in place of Ryan Shazier, and in last week's win he tallied 16 total tackles. He isn't as athletic as Shazier, but he plays with an edge which permeates into the rest of the defense.
Question 5. The Jets, like the Steelers, always seem to have stout run defenses, and this year is no exception. How do you see the matchup between Le'Veon Bell and the Steelers' offensive line versus the Jets' defensive front seven playing out? Do the Jets get the better of the Steelers' in the run game, or vice versa? Will the inability of the Jets to stop a nosebleed in the passing game render the Steelers' run game superfluous in any event? How do you see the Steelers attacking the Jets defense? Will this be a 40-50 passes type day for Roethlisberger in the face of token resistance by the Jets secondary?
Answer: I think it is safe to say the Steelers and Jets will both sell out to stop the run, and force the opposing QB to beat them through the air. I think the Steelers will run the football, but don't expect 25 carries. They will pick their spots, and certainly put Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams in the best position to succeed. The true factor of the running backs, for both teams, will be their ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Bell is a proven commodity as a receiver, and he will be called upon to do so to help offset the Jets' tremendous pass rush. The Steelers will throw early, but will try to stay balanced to control the clock, and the game.
Question 6. What do you see as the best chance for the Jets pulling an upset? How would you attack the Steelers on offense and on defense to emerge with an upset win if you were the Jets head coach? Would praying heavily to whatever deity you may worship make up a large part of the game plan?
Answer: If the Jets are going to win they have to stop the run, get a lead, and put tremendous pressure on Roethlisberger. That is the recipe of success against Pittsburgh, and has been for years. If the Jets can get a few early scores, and the Steelers stumble out of the gate, it will force Pittsburgh to be one-dimensional. Just look at the Eagles game where they lost 34-3...that was the recipe they used, and it could be copied.