The New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers will each have something to prove Sunday when the rivals square off at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The Steelers desperately need a win that might give a breath of fresh air to a disheartening 0-4 start. For New York, a win over Pittsburgh might solidify the Jets as a franchise in the midst of a bona fide upswing.
The Jets, who upset the Falcons on Monday Night Football, had a short week to prepare for the disappointing Steelers. Conversely, the Steelers benefited from a much-needed Week 5 bye to address the team's underachievement thus far.
Over the past few days, many have taken to Twitter to make predictions, share news and break down statistics in preparation for this AFC showdown.
One of the biggest changes that resulted from Pittsburgh's bye week was not made on the practice field. Rather, it was a change made to the Steelers locker room.
Apparently, Mike Tomlin wants his players focused on passing patterns and defensive schemes rather than stripes and solids.
The Pittsburgh defense has had a lot to consider since watching Geno Smith's impressive Monday Night Football debut. Smith showed that when he does not turn the ball over, he can be a very effective offensive leader for Gang Green.
To beat the Jets, the Steelers will have to create takeaways on defense. However, that has been a challenge for Pittsburgh all season.
The Steelers don't have a single takeaway in four games this season. Geno Smith just what the doctor ordered?— Jerry Sullivan (@TBNSully) October 10, 2013
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense will have their work cut out for them as they line up against the second-best defense in the NFL. Roethlisberger's signature ability to avoid the pass rush and extend plays has been generally absent this season. Instead, Big Ben has thrown five interceptions and coughed up as many fumbles.
However, the Jets defense will be slightly depleted this weekend. Linebacker Antwan Barnes suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Jets' win over Atlanta and has been placed on IR. And star cornerback Antonio Cromartie will be playing on a hyperextended knee.
Just want to take the time to thank everyone who is supporting me through this time...my spirits is still high and I will be back..#Jetpride— Antwan Barnes (@AntwanBarnes42) October 9, 2013
MRI reveals Jets Pro Bowl CB Antonio Cromartie has hyperextended knee and is questionable against the Steelers.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) October 11, 2013
Despite being questionable with a knee injury, Jets CB Antonio Cromartie is expected to play vs Steelers on Sunday.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 12, 2013
Barnes was an integral component of the Jets' unrelenting pass rush, and Cromartie is the backbone of the secondary. While injuries are never good news, Roethlisberger has got to be somewhat encouraged knowing his receiving corps will be facing a less-than-100-percent Cromartie.
An interesting side note, former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher will be in the booth for Sunday's game. Moreover, Cowher says he won't be afraid to speak his mind when it comes to the Steelers.
As Tomlin's predecessor, Cowher won Super Bowl XL with the Steelers. Tomlin and Cowher share a mutual respect for one another, and Cowher's commentary Sunday will likely be insightful and justified.
This will certainly be one of the biggest games to watch in Week 6. The Jets and Steelers are two of the most hotly debated teams in the NFL this season, and Sunday's matchup will surely add further fuel to the fire.