The Pittsburgh Steelers take on the New York Jets Sunday at Heinz Field and below is a breakdown of the game from an offensive and defensive perspective.
Steelers On Offense:
On Sunday the Jets defense will be without all-everything cornerback Darrelle Revis and right outside linebacker Bryan Thomas. Filling in for Revis will be Kyle Wilson, while Garrett McIntyre and Aaron Maybin figure to both see time in place of Thomas. Even though Revis is out, I expect Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley to try to establish the running game early, just like he attempted to do last week in Denver. Look for Haley to attempt to run between the tackles, and more specifically to the left side, where McIntyre or Maybin are. The Jets 3-4 is also susceptible to the Steelers power trapping game on early downs while in their base unit, so left guard Willie Colon figures to be on the move early in this game to the second level on runs to his side or trap runs to the right side. Weak inside linebacker Bart Scott did not have a great game against the Bills as he missed several tackles and he needs to be run at. The Steelers will likely open the game in 21 or 22 personnel, with fullback Will Johnson on the field in an attempt to run a lot of power early on. As much as the Steelers offense passed out of their 11 personnel group last week in Denver, look for them to try to run out of it more this week in an effort to not be so predictable in their run versus pass ratio while using that grouping. In the passing game, the Steelers would like to get the Jets into a situation where they are having to cheat a safety down low to help against the run on early downs. Even if the Jets do not commit to this, success in the running game early on should help freeze the safeties via play-action in an effort to exploit some one-on-one matchups. With Revis out for this game, backup cornerbacks Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant look to get extended playing time and either could be prime suspects to be picked on by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should he get slot wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders singled up across the middle or down the seem, with Antonio Brown and Heath Miller clearing out space for him. Also look for Chris Rainey to get used a little more in this game out of the backfield, especially when he draws Scott in coverage on the weak side or David Harris on the strong side. Even using Rainey out of backfield as a decoy, just as the Steelers did last week on the touchdown pass to Miller, could free up tons of space in the middle of the field for all of the Steelers wide receivers to work. It is all about space when attacking the Jets defense, so the offense might have to be slow and deliberate with there drives. Occasionally there should be opportunities for a deep ball or two to Brown or Mike Wallace outside should Roethlisberger catch them in a one safety deep look with man coverage.
Steelers On Defense:
On defense for the Steelers, the main goal is to not let Santonio Holmes or rookie Stephen Hill the ability to get deep for a big play. The Jets had 7 plays of 17 yards or more last week against the Bills with 4 of those going for 20 yards or more. The defense prides itself on not giving up the big play and only allowed 2 of them last week against the broncos, albeit one was a back breaker. The defense wants to force Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez to be patient and read the zone coverages to make consistent throws underneath the way Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning did Sunday night. They will bet that he can\’t be that efficient or patient. The Jets offense will be without one of their prime weapons in tight end Dustin Keller, who will miss the game with a hamstring injury. The Steelers front 7 will need to do a better job than they did last week against the Broncos on early run downs in order to put Sanchez in second and long and third and long situations. While the Jets will have Tim Tebow on the field at times on early downs, solid gap control play, unlike what they got in the AFC Wild Card game last January, should be able to neutralize the effectiveness of Tebow running. Tebow was on the field last week for only 10 plays against the Bills and he ran for only 11 yards on 5 carries, with a long of 4. When blitzing, the linebackers must get home more consistently this week than they did last week. Expect Sanchez to try to get rid of the ball quickly to a hot receiver early on in this game in an effort to slow down these blitz occurrences. The Steelers defense probably will not play as much cover-3 this week, but it still will be the primary look. Instead, I suspect we will see a little more cover-2 with man under this week in an attempt to make Sanchez fit the ball into a smaller window at times, especially when they utilize their fire-zone blitz.
The Steelers figure to be without both James Harrison and Troy Polamalu in this game, but the Jets being without Revis, Thomas and Keller is a tradeoff that favors the Steelers in this matchup. Roethlisberger is a much better quarterback than the one the Jets faced in Ryan Fitzpatrick last week and the offense should be able to move the ball on the ground against the Jets. Sanchez is bound to make mistakes in this game and the Steelers defense will make him earn everything he gets. Baring turnovers on offense, this game sets up good for the Steelers.