Sunday, September 16, 2012

Gameday: New York Jets

Heinz Field
Radio: WDVE and other affiliates

What to Watch For

1. Off the Island

Former Pitt and Aliquippa High School star Darrelle Revis is probably the best cornerback in the NFL. If you want to argue Nnamdi Asomugha or Charles Woodson that's fine, but Revis is definitely in the conversation. He's good enough that we've all come to know the phrase "Revis Island" because, kind of like the Island on LOST, he just takes guys off the map. Revis is out for this game with a concussion, and unlike the Oceanic Six, I can't see Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, or Mike Wallace ever thinking they need to go back to the Island. This is a big boost for the Steelers because even though Wallace will likely draw Antonio Cromartie, this means that Brown will probably get Kyle Wilson and Sanders will, no idea. And that's a good thing. Cromartie and Wallace have had some good battles in the past (though maybe not quite as good as Cromartie against a Paternity Test) and they figure to match up again. The real advantage here is for Sanders and Brown against Wilson and whoever the Jets trot out as their #3 corner.

2. Mark Sanchez

If you've read the blog or followed me on Twitter for a while, you know I don't think very highly of Mark Sanchez. That said, he had a big game last week and can be a good quarterback when his team has the lead and there isn't any pressure being put on him. In the past against the Steelers, the Jets have done everything they can to keep Sanchez clean by moving the pocket and rolling him out on bootlegs to give him simple looks in the passing game. The Jets lack of running game may hurt them here, but the Steelers will need to pressure Sanchez and force him into making the awful throws we've all seen him make in the past.

3. Offensive Line

Last week, the Steelers lost the right side of their line (Foster and Gilbert) to injuries during the game. Foster had an orbital migrane after being poked in the eye and Gilbert had a hyperextended knee. Both are expected to play this week and will certainly be welcome. The line had it's struggles in Week 1, including a handful of false start penalties (I'm looking at you Willie Colon). The team pretty much abandoned the run after Foster and Gilbert went out. The line simply has to be better this week. The Jets don't have any great pass rushers, but they like to mix and match blitzes and often bring corners and safeties on the rush. One of the Rex Ryan favorites we have seen through the years is the overload blitz where they simply bring more guys than you have blockers. The line has to communicate better and be ready for these blitzes so that Ben doesn't get killed.

4. Balanced Offense

This one goes to Todd Haley. There was a variety of reactions to Haley's first game as offensive coordinator. The Trib beat reporters were basically calling for a return to the Bruce Arians schoolyard offense and giving up on Haley's offense. On the other side (somewhat shockingly) were the Post-Gazette reporters who took a surprisingly rational view of the first game and Haley's gameplan. While the offense was balanced in the first half of the Denver game, it was very pass-heavy in the second half. We will need to stay balanced to keep the Jets pass rush at bay. As I said earlier, the Jets don't have an elite pass rusher, but Rex Ryan has a penchant for bringing some exotic blitzes with corners and safeties. To keep the Jets defense on their heels, the Steelers will need to establish and stick with a running game, as well as mixing in some no huddle and changing the pace of play on offense.

5. Defense, Defense, Defense

Let's not kid ourselves here - the defense struggled against Denver, particularly against their No Huddle offense. Peyton Manning might be the best quarterback we'll face all year, and the defense certainly needs to step up and make something happen here against the Jets. The Jets don't have a great running game and have some big holes on their line - particularly at right tackle. This should be an opening for LaMarr Woodley to exploit, and I expect some more blitzing from the Steelers to try to rattle Sanchez. Last week, the Steelers blitzed Peyton early but laid back when he went to the No Huddle. We need to keep the heat on Sanchez and force some bad throws. Harrison is probably out again and the speculation is that Troy will be out as well after missing the whole week of practice. Troy is obviously the biggest loss. Ryan Clark will return to the lineup and that will be a welcome addition, but there will still be a big hole in the secondary if Troy isn't able to play. The Front Seven will need to get pressure so that the Jets can't take shots at the secondary. Their receiving corps isn't great, but if Sanchez has time, he can obviously pick us apart.

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