What to Expect from Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers Offense in Week 6
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The Steelers quarterback was sacked 15 times in the first four games, a major factor in the team's 0-4 start.
Roethlisberger isn't likely to be any safer in Week 6. His offensive line has been shuffled more than a deck of cards at a Las Vegas blackjack table, and the Steelers visit a New York Jets defense that's tied for fifth in the NFL with 16 sacks.
It won't help that the Steelers won't be able to run the ball. The Jets are allowing 3.0 yards per rushing attempt, best in the NFL. So the Steelers shouldn't expect a breakout game from rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, who will make his second career start.
The Jets improved to 3-2 Monday night with a 30-28 win at Atlanta.
They led 17-7 in the final minute of the first half when rookie defensive end Sheldon Richardson tackled Falcons running back Jason Snelling for a one-yard loss at the Jets' 5-yard line.
A breakdown of the play shows Richardson first engaging center Peter Konz.
Then, he sheds the block and frees himself up to tackle Snelling and helps prevent the Falcons from scoring before halftime.
Earlier in the drive, backup nose tackle Kenrick Ellis drops Jacquizz Rodgers for a three-yard loss, bulldozing Falcons right guard Garrett Reynolds along the way.
For the Steelers to put points on the board, Roethlisberger will have to move the ball through the air. The good news is that the Jets defense isn't as strong against the pass as it is against the run.
The Jets defense are giving up 299 yards per game this season, second in the NFL. However, the unit is ranked 13th in pass defense, allowing 222.8 yards per game and has given up nine passing touchdowns. It has intercepted just one pass.
Roethlisberger has five touchdown passes and five interceptions this year. In Week 6, look for him to throw for more TDs than picks for the first time this season.
A good game from Big Ben will benefit Antonio Brown, whose 32 receptions ties him for eighth in the NFL. He'll take another step toward a career year against the Jets. The Steelers also will need Emmanuel Sanders to be a more prominent part of the offense. He's caught just four passes in each of the last two games after catching 12 in the first two.
Heath Miller can have his best game since coming back from the knee injury he suffered late last season. He has nine catches in his first two games since returning, but expect him to approach that number against the Jets alone; fellow tight end Tony Gonzalez had 10 receptions for 97 yards against the Jets in Week 5.
Rookie receiver Markus Wheaton is out with a broken pinkie, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. That gives Jerricho Cotchery a chance for a big game against his former team.
After coming to Pittsburgh, Cotchery caught 16 passes and two touchdowns in 2011, then he caught 17 passes last season. He already has 15 receptions with two touchdowns this season and needs just three catches Sunday to ensure his most productive season as a Steeler.
Roethlisberger will just have to wade through frequent pressure and, I'm predicting, at least three more sacks to get the ball to all those guys.
And this time, Mike Adams won't be to blame.
Adams, who according to Pro Football Focus (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) has been responsible for four sacks, six hits and 13 quarterback hurries this season, was benched after allowing two of those sacks in the Steelers' Week 4 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in London.
The Steelers traded a draft pick last week to the Arizona Cardinals for offensive tackle Levi Brown, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that either he or Kelvin Beachum will start at left tackle in place of Adams.
Even if the offensive line is a better unit, there won't be much to show for it against the Jets.
Left defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson leads the Jets with four sacks. With the Jets leading the Falcons 17-14 late in the third quarter Monday night, Wilkerson strip-sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Atlanta right tackle Jeremy Trueblood barely makes contact with the 6'4", 315-pound Wilkerson.
Wilkerson then gets past right guard Garrett Reynolds, before knocking the ball from Ryan's hand.
Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert and right guard David DeCastro will have their hands full trying to block Wilkerson.
As disruptive as the Jets defense has been, however, it has yet to truly close out a game.
Two of the Jets wins came on Nick Folk field goals in the final seconds. In their season-opening, 18-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two seconds remained after Folk kicked a 48-yard field goal. In the Jets' 27-20 win over the Buffalo Bills, their final punt was downed at the Bills' 1-yard line with 21 seconds left. In neither of those wins were the Jets tested in the closing minutes.
What will be the result of Sunday's Steelers-Jets game?
Against the Falcons, however, the Jets defense, trying to protect a 27-21 advantage, were unable to keep the Falcons from marching 63 yards for a TD to take the lead. That failure was all but forgotten when New York's rookie quarterback Geno Smith led the Jets down the field for a game-winning field goal as time expired.
If the Steelers have the ball last on Sunday, that first win could come. After all, the last time Roethlisberger finished a meaningful game that the Steelers won, they beat the New York Giants 24-20 on Nov. 4 last season at MetLife Stadium.
They'll be in the same building Sunday.
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