Initially posed by Jim Wexell in the Dec. 18 edition of Steelers Digest, it pondered the deteriorating state of the Steelers' offensive line and the number of sacks and holding penalties that have been sustained of late, and wondered, "What's going to happen when the Steelers face a team with even a mediocre pass rush?"
To quote Dennis Hopper, "Bad things, man."
The New York Football Jets are coming to town this Sunday. They aren't bringing the New York Sack Exchange with them, but nor will they be relying upon a pass rush that can accurately be described as mediocre.
The Jets' pass rush is much better than that.
Officially, the Jets are No. 11 in the NFL in sacks with 32.
Unofficially, they're probably No. 1 in the NFL in looks that feature nine or 10 players lined up across the line of scrimmage, looks that suggest everyone but the free safety is coming and that the Jets aren't especially worried about the offense realizing as much pre-snap.
During the Monday Night Football broadcast of a 45-3 pummeling the Jets absorbed on Dec. 6 against New England, analyst Jon Gruden said the Jets blitz on passing downs an NFL-high 55 percent of the time.
Think they might jack that up a bit against the Steelers?
If you want to be truly frightened regarding the type of havoc and punishment the Jets' pass rush is capable of inflicting, consider this:
The Jets sacked Tom Brady three times in the first half of that 45-3 loss to the Pats (it was 24-3 New England after two quarters). And the Patriots' offensive line is a lot better than the Steelers', and Brady is much more agreeable to and adept at getting rid of the ball quickly than Ben Roethlisberger.
Imagine this Sunday's carnage if Roethlisberger remains committed to holding onto the ball as long as possible in pursuit of the big play.
The Jets' assault-first-ask-questions-later philosophy can and has gotten them into trouble, and most definitely did against New England.
On a fourth-and-3 from the Jets 25-yard line, Brady detected 11 defenders within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage and opted for a slant to the man Antonio Cromartie was supposed to be covering (Deion Branch), one that wound up going for a 25-yard touchdown.
And on a subsequent first-and-10 the Jets ran a zone-blitz that rushed six and ultimately required defensive end Mike DeVito to drop and cover running back Danny Woodhead (Brady recognized that nonsense and exploited it on a check-down that gained 35 yards).
But again, you have to want to get rid of the ball quickly.
And Roethlisberger has very little interest in changing his game, even for the Jets.
"I know how to play the game one way," he said. "To sit there and tell me not to play it that way is a hard thing to do. I can go into any game and tell myself not to do it, but when those juices start flowing; it's just like when I'm running against the Bills and (Marcus) Stroud's chasing me. Yeah, of course, everything in your body tells you to go out of bounds, but you don't. Why? I don't know, because I don't want to."
That's gonna leave a mark.
It'd be easier if the Jets had a Clay Matthews, a DeMarcus Ware or a James Harrison, someone you could triple-team if need be, but they don't. Six Jets have at least three sacks this season (the Steelers have four such players). They overwhelm with numbers much more than they do individual pass-rushing prowess.
Not that they're always coming.
Sometimes, they rush just three.
But against the Steelers? And with what appears to be an open invitation from the NFL to go ahead and smack Roethlisberger around without fear of drawing a flag for a personal foul?
Yeah, this could get ugly.
It was that at times against Cincinnati, when what transpired had analyst Dan Dierdorf likening Roethlisberger to a modern-day Y.A. Tittle. Yeah, the Tittle who was last seen on his knees at Pitt Stadium, exasperated, with his helmet off and a blood-stained gash on his head that made him look like Gorbachev.
For the Steelers' offense this is a bad matchup, both physically and philosophically.
Bet the "under."