Florham Park, N.J. – This game is impactful for both the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. After battling hard in the first two weeks of the season to go 1-1, the Jets have fallen apart the past two games and are in danger of going down a slippery slope. If they win against a tough Steelers team, then there shouldn’t be a problem playing other teams moving forward. If they lose, it’ll be another reason to add to the list of why they won’t make the playoffs. For the Steelers, they start the season strong at 3-1. After only being able to score three pfoints against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh came back to rout Kansas City, who put a beating on New York. Here’s the position by position battle of the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.
This one is pretty obvious. Roethlisberger has been one of best quarterbacks in the NFL for quite sometime. Right now he’s on fire. After only able to put up three points against Philadelphia, he only had five incompletions en route to throwing for 300 yards and five touchdowns, three in the first quarter, against Kansas City.
Fitzpatrick has been on a much different path. Through the first two games, he threw for 563 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. His last two games: 449 yards, one touchdown, and nine interceptions. Not good.
Both groups have a very skilled backfield. Bell came back last game with authority: 18 carries for 144 yards and five catches for 34 yards. He is the complete back and is making up for lost time from his 3-game suspension. While on that suspension, Williams held down the fort quite well. He ran the ball hard and caught out of the backfield, having three total touchdowns in the first two games. Williams struggled in Philadelphia and wasn’t a huge factor against Kansas City. However, he did have a goal line touchdown, so look for him to carry the ball in the red zone.
Forte is having a good year so far. Excluding the last game against Seattle, Forte has not rushed less than 50 yards. In the first two games, he had 52 carries for 196 yards and three touchdowns. He also reeled in seven catches for 68 yards. Forte showed his value in weeks one and two. Powell has been a great compliment to Forte. He doesn’t get a lot of carries, but he does break out for big runs when he does touch the ball. Powell has also been big in the passing game. The last two games he had 12 catches for 95 yards. When Forte isn’t on top of his game, Powell is there to back him up.
This is quite the interesting matchup. The Steelers have the best wide receiver in the NFL in Brown. No questions asked. 369 yards and four touchdowns through four games is impressive. Especially since he only had four catches for 39 yards in the victory over Cincinnati. The rest of the depth is a tiny bit suspect. Coates has had a pretty good year after only having one catch his rookie season. 13 catches for 282 yards is impressive, but he hasn’t crossed the pylon yet in his young career. Wheaton and Heyward-Bey both have two catches and a touchdown for over 30 yards. Not really getting a lot of targets, they’re unproven early in the season. Pittsburgh is also without Eli Rogers, who has nine catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.
The Jets are without Eric Decker, which is a huge loss. He hasn’t been getting a lot of targets early in the year, but the fact that his presence and capability to break off for a big game is lost. They do have Marshall, who has been having a good year. 16 catches for 249 yards and a touchdown, he hasn’t that monster game that everyone has been waiting for. Enunwa has been quite the player for New York. Dubbed the “Dennis Rodman” of the team by head coach Todd Bowles, Enunwa has come up big when needed. 23 catches for 243 yards, and one touchdown, he came up huge in the first two weeks when Marshall and Decker were being heavily covered. Anderson and Peake are very unproven but have potential to have big games. Anderson had his chance to breakout last week against Seattle, but three big drops really hurt him. He led the NFL during the preseason with 13 catches for 264 yards, so the big play ability is there. Peake played his first game last week and had three catches for 30 yards. Not terrible. He also returned a Fitzpatrick fumble 42 yards for a touchdown. Look for either Anderson or Peake to breakout.
Automatically this matchup goes to the Steelers. Through four games, James has already surpassed his rookie year stats with 12 catches and 85 yards with two touchdowns. He is a factor in the Pittsburgh offense.
On the New York side, the tight end position is non-existent. Not a single tight end has recorded a catch this season. You can count on one hand how many times they’ve been targeted. The addition of Seferian-Jenkins helps, but only if he’s able to get on the field. If he knows the playbook, he’ll play. If not, we could be seeing another week where the tight end is only used in blocking situations.
The Steelers are without starter Marcus Gilbert and backups Ryan Harris and Cody Wallace. The depth of the line doesn’t help the fact that they have let up eight sacks in four games this year. The line let up a season-high four sacks against Philadelphia, which can mean problems in this game since the defensive front for the Jets is much better than the Eagles.
On the other side, New York is only without starter Brian Winters. The line as a whole has let up six sacks this season, four sacks last week against Seattle. That shouldn’t be an indication of the line, as they let up only two in the first three games of the season.
Pittsburgh only has five sacks on the year. Three of those sacks belong to defensive end Cameron Heyward. Those are the only sacks belonging to the line. The Steelers typically run a 3-4 base. The line hasn’t really caused trouble upfront. Besides Heyward and Stephon Tuitt forcing two fumbles, not much going on up there.
New York arguably has the best defensive line in the NFL. The Jets typically run a 4-3 base, with the line consisting of Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson, and Steve McLendon. The line has eight of New York’s 11 sacks on the year, with Williams having four of those. The Jets sport one of the best run defenses in the NFL thanks to the boys upfront. Big Ben beware.
Pittsburgh is without starting linebacker Ryan Shazier. He’s fifth on team with 20 tackles, has a forced fumble and interception. Lawrence Timmons leads his team in tackles with 24. The linebackers can tackle, but are able to go out and cover, as all the team’s interceptions have come from linebackers (3).
New York’s leading tackler is rookie Darron Lee. He has 24 tackles and a half a sack. Lee also has big play ability, laying out bone-crushing hits. David Harris would be leading the team had he not have been 100%. Same can be said for Erin Henderson. The linebackers have helped the defensive line hold it down on the run, but struggle at the short pass game.
Both the Steelers and the Jets have below-average secondary’s. Pittsburgh is without backup cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Senquez Golson and also are without starting safety Robert Golden. Mike Mitchell and William Gay are tied for third on the team in tackles with 20. However, Pittsburgh is 30th in the NFL in passing yards allowed (1,266) and yards per game (316.5).
The Jets are no better in the secondary. The team has allowed big play after big play each game, 17 passes of over 20 yards. Darrelle Revis is a game-time decision and even though he’s considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, he hasn’t been on top of his game. Marcus Williams will most likely step into the role on the outside, leading the team with two interceptions. Buster Skrine has been the most solid of the crew, not giving up anything big. Rookie Juston Burris will need to fill in in big situations, but has been solid when he’s played. The big issue is the blown coverages and miscommunication, which has placed New York 26th in the NFL.
If New York is able to play on top of their game at every position and they are able to limit the mistakes, then they will be able to run with Pittsburgh. If not, then the Jets are going to be running into some problems.