On Sunday the New York Jets (3-2) take on the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) at MetLife Stadium. The Jets are coming off of a inspiring victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night while the Steelers are rejuvenated following a bye week. Lets take a look at some of the keys to the game from a New York Jets perspective.
Offensive line play- In order for the Jets to have success on Sunday the offensive line must play very physical in the trenches. The Pittsburgh defense, led by coordinator Dick LeBeau, is going to bring the heat against Geno Smith and the line must be prepared for their attacking style. Gang Green's unit cannot afford blown assignments or communication issues with players like LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu flying around.
Pound the rock- The Steelers defense is ranked 25th against the run giving up almost 123 yards a game. The Jets must once again utilize their platoon of running backs (Ivory, Powell, Goodson) to set the tone of the game and eat up chunks of yards. It would be great to see offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg develop another game plan that used a variety of formations to run the ball out of. With the running game established the down the field passing game becomes a little easier for Geno.
Limit turnovers- Geno Smith is coming off of a game where he made very smart decisions with the football and did not have any turnovers. Smith must continue to play within the offense and take what the defense gives him. The rookie quarterback is going to see a variety of looks from the Steelers defense and must get rid of the ball quickly to avoid negative plays.
Replacing Barnes- The New York Jets defense suffered a significant blow when Antwan Barnes was lost for the year with a knee injury. Barnes had 2 sacks on the season along with a team leading 12 quarterback hits. The Jets will look to Quinton Coples and Garrett McIntyre to pick up some of the slack. Coples, the Jets first round pick in 2012, has to be the guy to raise his game and become an effective pass rusher.
Secondary issues- It appears that rookie defensive back Dee Milliner will miss Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. To complicate matters further there are rumors that Antonio Cromartie could also miss the game with a knee injury. Cromartie would be a tremendous loss to the Jets secondary as he is the team's best cover guy. Darrin Walls and Kyle Wilson will be the immediate replacements in the secondary with Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant to see additional reps as well.
Get Big Ben to the ground- The Steelers power running game of years past is gone as the team is ranked last in the NFL averaging 58 yards a game. The Jets defense must dominate the line of scrimmage and get after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben is a tough quarterback that buys time with his movement in the pocket and willingness to take a big hit in order to make plays down the field. Gang Green's defenders must get Ben to the ground to disrupt the passing game and possibly generate turnovers.
This is going to be an interesting game for the Jets as it could be somewhat of a trap for the team. Gang Green is coming off of an emotional win and could have their eye on a marquee match-up with the Patriots the following weekend. The Steelers are a prideful group that will be rested and motivated after a bye week.
I think this is going to be a low scoring, physical game with both defenses making impact plays. The Jets could start out slow but as the game progresses should be able to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. This game will not be pretty but Geno and company find a way to win. 17-13