Week 2 brings us the 22nd edition of the New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers dominate the series with 17 wins with their latest win coming in the 2011 AFC Championship game, in which they won 24-19. The Jets are coming off a week 1 win over the Buffalo Bills where they won 48-28. The Steelers are coming back home after getting beaten by the Peyton Manning-led Broncos. The Steelers are led by QB Ben Roethlisberger with a supporting cast of WRs in Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Troy Polamalu is the head of the Steelers defense which was ranked 1st in scoring defense in 2011.
The Jets are coming off a week in which the team scored 34 points on offense against the Bills which had one of the better defensive lines in the league which got no pressure on Mark Sanchez as the Jets quarterback was not sacked. Sanchez can not afford to make any mistakes as the Steelers defense will make him pay dearly for them. With the injuries to James Harrison and Troy Polamalu the Steelers defense might not be as strong as it could be but with the return of Ryan Clark, they should still be a challenge. With corner back Ike Taylor slated to play against Santonio Holmes the key match-up in the passing game will be Stephen Hill vs. Keenan Lewis. Hill has a 4 inch advantage over Lewis which will help in the possible jump ball situations that might occur. Dustin Keller is out for the game so the passing game won’t be as effective as it was against Buffalo.
The Steelers run defense gave up 94 yards on 27 carries vs. the Broncos last week which for the Jets could be a positive as the Broncos while not breaking 100 yards was able to use to running game in order to tire out the Steelers. Defensive injuries will also help Shonn Greene and company as three of the starting eleven on the Steelers defense might be out or be less effective due to injury (Harrison, Polamalu, & Ziggy Hood).
Advantage – It’s hard to say but I’d give the Steelers a small edge since Keller is definitely out and Polamalu might play.
The Steelers running game is not as strong as Buffalo’s but can be effective with the combination of Rashad Mendenhall and Issac Redman. The Steelers only got 75 yards on the ground on 26 carries vs. the Broncos so if the Jets can fix what went wrong in the game against Buffalo they should be able to limit the Steelers running game. With Bryan Thomas being out for the game the Jets defense the Jets will have to rely on Garrett McIntyre and Aaron Maybin to pick up the slack.
The Steelers passing game will be determined by how fast Ben Roethlisberger can get rid of the ball. The Steelers offensive line gave up 5 sacks against the Broncos, so the Jets should be able to take advantage of the weak Steelers offensive line. With Darrelle Revis out for the game it will be up to Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie to keep Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown covered long enough for the pass rush to get to Roethlisberger. Heath Miller can be an effective weapon for the Steelers as the Jets have a recent history of letting tight ends beat them. Miller isn’t Rob Gronkowski but he can be effective in the short passing game. It will be interesting to see what kind of schemes Rex Ryan can draw up in order to let the Jets defense reach Roethlisberger as they didn’t didn’t get a sack in the previous game against the Bills but created four turnovers.
Advantage – Steelers. The Jets will miss Revis, but the run defense needs to show up if they want to stop this offense.
Jets Special Teams
Nick Folk will have a difficult game as Heinz Field is not kicker friendly as his range will be limited to 40 yards or less thanks to the stadium’s set-up. Other than that Folk should be his usual effective self. The Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham had some problems at home going 10-14 in 2011 but all four misses were from beyond 40 yards so he too will be effective inside 40.
The Jets and Steelers punting game will be handled by guys with limited NFL experience though the Jets Robert Malone has almost a full season’s worth of experience under his belt vs. his counter part’s Drew Hudson, whose NFL experience is just last weeks game vs. the Broncos. It’s basically a crap-shoot, in guessing which one will be better.
The Jets kick and punt returners are some of the best in the NFL as Joe McKnight is coming off leading the NFL in kick return yard average and Jeremy Kerley is coming off a game with his first career touchdown return. The Steelers use Emmanuel Sanders as their kick and punt returner who is a decent returner but nothing special.
Advantage – Jets. It’s close but the Jets have the edge in returners.
If you don’t like my preview, don’t worry Ron’s back next week.