5 Bold Predictions for Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 10 Matchup

Chris Gazze@ChrisG_PITCorrespondent INovember 5, 2014

5 Bold Predictions for Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 10 Matchup

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Only three weeks ago the Pittsburgh Steelers were out of the playoff picture as they sat at 3-3. The season took a dramatic change for the better as they have won three games in a row behind the dominance of Ben Roethlisberger.

    Even the boldest of bold predictions could not have predicted what Roethlisberger would achieve over recent weeks. He raised his game to another level—one no other quarterback in the history of the league has achieved. 

    A week after he became the first quarterback in NFL history with more than one 500-yard passing game, Roethlisberger set another NFL record for the most touchdown passes (12) over a two-game stretch. More importantly, he has helped lead his team to within striking distance of the Cincinnati Bengals for first place in the AFC North.

    Roethlisberger hasn’t been the only outstanding player during Pittsburgh's three-game winning streak. Antonio Brown continues to shine as his go-to receiver, while Martavis Bryant has stepped into a starring role with five touchdowns.

    The offense hasn’t done it alone, as the defense has showed signs of turning things around. Part of the reason has been its ability to make splash plays. As a unit, Pittsburgh’s defense has four interceptions over the last three games. No player, though, has performed better than James Harrison, who has four sacks over the past two games.

    As the Steelers leave the comfort of Heinz Field for the first time since Week 6, can they maintain their high level of play? Here are five bold predictions for their Week 10 matchup against the New York Jets.

Rush Defense Will Clamp Down on Jets

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    As poor as the Jets are passing the ball—they rank dead last in the league—that is how good they are on the ground. With 139.9 yards per game, New York has the third-best rushing attack in the NFL.

    The Jets have accomplished this through a two-back attack with Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson. The two have combined for 834 yards and six touchdowns. However, Ivory shouldered most of the load.

    Ivory has 31 more carries than Johnson does this season, including a 42-to-27 edge over the last three weeks. But it is more than just these two backs. During this stretch, the Jets have rushed for an average of just over 177 yards per game. New York’s top two backs have combined for just 103 yards per game.

    Michael Vick and Bilal Powell are two of the other key runners in New York’s offense. Vick is one player who the Steelers must keep an eye on, even after he was injured last week. Rex Ryan announced in his press conference that Vick will start again in Week 10 as long as he has a clean bill of health (h/t Dan Hanzus of NFL.com).

    Even with Vick in the lineup, it won’t be enough for the Jets to effectively run the ball on the Steelers.

    Dick LeBeau’s defense has improved its performance against the run with an average of 86 yards per game allowed during Pittsburgh's three-game win streak. Aggressive play from the front seven combined with a potent offense will force the Jets to play from behind and throw the ball.

    By taking away the Jets’ strength on offense, the Steelers will be able to control the ground game, hold New York to well below its season average and keep it under 100 yards rushing.

Antonio Brown Will Have Another Monster Game

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    On paper, the Jets have one of the better pass defenses in the league, as it ranks 12th with an average of 231 yards allowed per game. As good as that sounds, it ignores the damage that No. 1 receivers have done against it this season.

    During their eight-game losing streak, the Jets have been unable to stop the opponent’s top receiving option. The leading receivers during this time have caught 50 passes for 923 yards and six touchdowns. Next up, Antonio Brown.

    Brown leads the league in receptions (71) and yards (996) and is tied for fourth in touchdowns (eight). Expect Brown to add to that total this week.

    Over the past three weeks, Brown’s numbers have been astronomical. He has 30 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns as opposing defenses have had no answers for him. Given the Jets' inability to stop No. 1 receivers, Brown is in for another monster game.

    Not only will he once again be the Steelers' top receiver, but Brown will reach double-digit receptions for a third straight week, as he will catch another 10 passes for over 130 yards and at least one score.

More Splash Plays for the Defense

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Over the offseason, Kevin Colbert added speed and aggressiveness to the defense in part to help generate more splash plays. Early in the season, it appeared as though those additions failed. The defense couldn’t pressure the quarterback or force turnovers.

    However, things began to click during Pittsburgh’s three-game win streak. Sacks and turnovers began to roll in as the defense picked up its play to complement the high-powered offense. All of a sudden, the Steelers appear to be a team to be reckoned with.

    Dick LeBeau has taken an aggressive approach with his defense, and it has paid off during the Steelers' three-game winning streak. During this time, they have picked up six sacks and forced seven turnovers. One of the main players involved in this resurgence is James Harrison.

    Once thought to be done in the NFL, Harrison was signed by the Steelers to help replace an injured Jarvis Jones, and he has done that and more.

    No one can expect Harrison to perform as he did in his prime, but he doesn’t have to. He is doing plenty as a part-time player, especially over the past three weeks, where he has been credited with nine quarterback hits and four sacks.

    With Harrison leading the way, the Steelers will continue their aggressive approach against the Jets and continue to pile up the sacks and force turnovers. At the very least, Pittsburgh’s defense will pick up three sacks and two turnovers against New York.

Ben Roethlisberger Stays Scorching Hot

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    Gene Puskar/Associated Press

    It's not as though you didn’t already know this, but Ben Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his career. It is amazing, because just two weeks ago I had this to say about Roethlisberger heading into the game against the Indianapolis Colts:

    Roethlisberger has been disappointing at times this year but still has 1,858 yards passing and 10 touchdowns to only three interceptions. He has completed 67.6 percent of his passes or higher in five of seven games and has two games over 300 yards.

    Roethlisberger’s best stretch of games came in second and third weeks of the season when he completed 72.9 percent of his passes for 510 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. He will need to have a similar type of performance to outduel Luck.

    The second half of the above quote puts his performance into perspective. Roethlisberger’s performance against the Colts was better than his best two-game stretch of the season. Let that settle in for a second.

    Roethlisberger’s former head coach chimed in on his play this week on The Fan Morning Show on 93.7 The Fan: "I've never seen Ben play better," Bill Cowher said. "He looks comfortable in this offense."

    Comfort doesn’t even begin to describe Roethlisberger’s performance in this offense right now. Not only is he comfortable with it, but he looks as if he owns the offense. He is throwing the ball with tremendous accuracy and is connecting with eight or nine different receivers per game.

    Even an above-average Jets pass defense will have trouble with the way Roethlisberger is playing right now. With so many dynamic weapons on the field and Roethlisberger using each one of them, Pittsburgh’s offense is virtually unstoppable right now.

    There is no reason to believe Roethlisberger will slow down on Sunday. He has a chance to not only lead his team to a victory, but take a step closer to being one of the top contenders in the AFC.

    Though he may not throw for six touchdowns for a third consecutive week, he will still put up monster numbers. Another 300 yards in the air and four touchdowns will not only help lead the Steelers to a win, but place Roethlisberger in the discussion for league MVP.

Steelers Win Big

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Early in the season, the Steelers struggled to beat the “easy” teams on their schedule. In the opener, they held on for a three-point win against the Cleveland Browns. In Week 6, they struggled with the Jacksonville Jaguars as they only managed to win by eight points.

    Of course, that was a better result than the one they had against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unlike recent weeks, the Steelers couldn’t manage to maintain a late-game lead and suffered a devastating three-point loss.

    The Steelers have had no such problems over the past three weeks as they have averaged 41.3 points per game and put every team away. With the offense scoring at will and the defense showing improvement, this Pittsburgh team looks nearly unstoppable.

    However, that can create an attitude of invincibility in the locker room, and this is something that Mike Tomlin doesn’t want to happen. He knows all NFL teams are better than their records indicate and wants to have his team mentality prepared for the Jets, per Bob Labriola of Steelers.com:

    We started off 2-6 a year ago, and what we were able to do over the second half is a reflection of that. You better respect teams when you step into stadiums. We respect the Jets. I respect those guys and what they’re capable of. I respect anybody we play week in and week out. There are no homecoming games, there are no I-AA opponents in the NFL.

    There is a chance for a letdown after three consecutive games with a national audience against quality opponents. However, Tomlin has the right mindset heading into Week 10, and you can be sure that his veteran leaders do as well.

    A loss will detract from their recent accomplishments, and the Steelers cannot afford to let this one slip away. Rather than play it close, they will put their offense on full display and take it to the Jets for a four-score victory.

    Steelers 41, Jets 17

    Note: Unless otherwise noted, all stats are courtesy of ESPN.comand all roster information is courtesy of Steelers.com.  

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