Pittsburgh Steelers: Keys to Earning a Victory over the New York Jets
After traveling west to face an AFC contender, the Pittsburgh Steelers will return home this weekend to match up against another AFC contender—this time one from the east.
The New York Jets will be at Heinz Field in what figures to be one of the best games of the weekend.
Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes—including two to rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill—as the Jets put up 48 points on an up-and-coming Bills team.
But the Steelers will adjust as they try to get their first win of the season. Here are the keys to winning against the Jets.
Wake Up Woodley
LaMarr Woodley wanted to welcome back Peyton Manning to the NFL last week and that did not go so well. He must hope that his statement that “We will not go 0-2” on his Facebook page will be a little more accurate this week.
With the real possibility that the Steelers will be without Harrison and Polamalu, Woodley is the biggest threat on the field.
Given that information, the Jets will do their best to neutralize Woodley and keep him from making an impact just as Denver did last week.
Besides a fumble recovery, Woodley was relatively quiet and the Steelers need much more from him if they do not want to get picked apart again this week.
Even though Sanchez is not in Manning’s league in terms of accuracy, if given time, any quarterback can make things happen.
Woodley is going to have to dominate on Sunday to force Sanchez into making mistakes and not be in position to throw three touchdown passes for the second straight week.
Strength vs. Strength
Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, meet Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson.
Three of the best receivers in the league will get to face one of the best secondaries that the NFL has to offer.
Pittsburgh’s receivers caught 12-of-22 passes last week for 166 of the team’s 245 passing yards and a touchdown.
Despite a relatively productive week, it did not feel that the Steelers receivers were much of a threat. They will have to do better against top competition this week.
The Steelers will have trouble moving the ball on the ground until the offensive line improves as unit meaning that Ben Roethlisberger will have to win this game with his arm.
He will need his receivers to win the one-on-one battles and they have the talent to do so, particularly Brown and Wallace.
Expect the Steelers to test the Jets secondary with Wallace deep on Sunday. They did not try much deep down the field last week, but playing at home Roethlisberger should be more likely to take risks.
A couple of deep completions could really open things up for the offense and allow the Steelers to have a productive day in the points department.
No King of the Hill
In his first regular season game, Stephen Hill had an impressive performance with five receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns.
The Steelers will have to do a better job containing him than they did the Broncos receivers last weekend. More importantly, they have to prevent him from making a big play.
The Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas had a 71-yard touchdown reception that really never should have happened. Even though there was plenty of time for the Steelers to come back following the touchdown, it was still deflating for the team.
Hill has the combination of size and speed to make plays happen, so the Steelers will need to focus on preventing a big play in the passing game. Nothing can discourage the home crowd more than a long touchdown pass.
Offensive Key Player: Offensive Line
The Steelers cannot catch any breaks with their offensive line.
First, they lose David DeCastro to a major injury and then Ramon Foster and Marcus Gilbert left the game last week with injuries.
Though both players should be back for Sunday’s game, it is still a concern that the injury bug has already started this early in the year.
Pittsburgh needs the line to get things together if the offense is going to live up to its potential, especially against a quality defense like the Jets.
Defensive Key Player: Ziggy Hood
If LaMarr Woodley is going to have a big game, he is going to need some help and that begins with Ziggy Hood.
Hood has yet to have a true breakout season and hasn’t shown signs of achieving that this year either.
The Steelers need Hood to eat up blocks at the line of scrimmage to free up Woodley to get to the quarterback. Beyond this, the Jets are going to try to run the ball and the Steelers need to win the battle up front.
Another potential problem is if the Jets decide to run the Wildcat with Tim Tebow. If so, the defensive line becomes that much more important.
Pittsburgh leads the all-time series over New York 15-4
The Steelers won the last meeting in the AFC Championship game on January 23, 2011. The final score was 24-19.
The Jets only win in Pittsburgh was a 22-17 victory in 2010.
The last four games between these two teams have been decided by five points or less, including two overtime games.
Pittsburgh hasn’t started 0-2 since 2002.
Pittsburgh has won nine straight home openers.
Mike Tomlin has never lost a home opener and is undefeated at home in September.
Ben Roethlisberger is 5-0 in home openers.