Bring On The J-E-T-S

The Steelers have completed the work week with understanding that 1-8 Jets ready to play best game.

Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward was huffing and puffing his way through an interview this week when someone asked if he might find himself in a similar condition after chasing elusive quarterback Michael Vick on Sunday.

"Not if I'm already in shape," Heyward said with a smile that said he had just returned from a workout to take his conditioning to another level in anticipation of Vick.

An hour before practice.

Nope, no signs of a letdown this week from the Steelers.

David DeCastro just shook his furrowed brow at the mere mention of the word.

"In this league, there's no such thing as a letdown," the Steelers' right guard said. "You let down your guard for a second, you're going to get humbled really quickly in this league. It's not like college."

The 6-3 Steelers -- riding an impressive three-game win streak against quality opposition -- are playing the 1-8 New York Jets today, on the road, and these Jets have played pretty well all-around, except at quarterback.

Enter Vick.

The 34-year-old journeyman had been the backup to turnover-prone, second-year player Geno Smith until Smith threw three interceptions in the first quarter against the Buffalo Bills two weeks ago.

Vick entered in the second quarter and showed some rust, and the Jets lost, again, but Vick started the following week -- last week -- against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jets lost there, too, 24-10, but Vick posted a passer rating of 105.7. He also furthered a relationship with speedy playmaker Percy Harvin, who had been acquired from the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 17. Harvin caught 11 passes for 129 yards last week, and the Jets have to believe they've found a bit of a passing game.

That's been much-needed for a team that ranks third in the league in rushing offense and sixth in the league in total defense. The Jets' passing game ranks dead last, but the Jets have obviously made moves to fix it.

"I’ve seen Vick since he was in Atlanta," said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "I’ve seen him all the way and I don’t see much difference in him. He’s the same guy. If you blink, he’s gone. He’s a challenge."

"He doesn't have the 4.1, 4.2 speed but he's got the elusiveness," said Heyward. "Able to break tackles, make something out of nothing, extend plays. We've got to get him on the ground quick. We can't just think he's going down with one shot."

The same could be said for the Jets' running game. Behind quality linemen such as Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Willie Colon, running backs Chris Ivory (109-497) and Chris Johnson (78-337) have averaged 4.5 yards per carry.

Along with Harvin, Vick's top targets are former Peyton Manning target Eric Decker (40-426-4), rookie tight end Jace Amaro (32-285-1) and slot receiver Jeremy Kerley (26-237-1).

They'll be going up against a Steelers defense that has been without cornerback Ike Taylor, and will be without starting strong safety Troy Polamalu (knee) Sunday, as well as reserve safeties Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) and Ross Ventrone (hamstring). Back in the deep patrol will be starter Mike Mitchell and veteran replacement Will Allen.

"Will has played a lot of good football for us in the past and we’re very confident that he’ll do a good job for us," said LeBeau. "We’ll miss Troy. He’s a great player, but throughout the league and every city they’re going to have games where they will have to go without some of their people, and we’re just without Troy this week."

On defense, the Jets have an impressive array of athletes up front and a defensive-minded, riverboat-gambling head coach on a hot seat, Rex Ryan.

The Steelers know that side of the ball isn't a 1-8 unit.

"No, not at all," said DeCastro. "You watch their defense play and they don't look like it at all. I think the turnovers have really hurt them. Coach T told us that stat and that'll hurt you as a team if you turn the ball over and you're not getting anything. But up front they're smashing the run. They're going to be a really hard defense to play against."

Mike Tomlin gave his Jets turnovers stat to the media at his Tuesday press conference:

"They are last in the league in turnover ratio. They have only generated three turnovers through the first nine games, and they have turned the ball over 18 times. So when you are minus-15 there is a strong possibility you are going to be losing football games regardless of how you are playing in any of the three phases. I think that therein lies a lot of their plight. I think that their play as you look at it doesn’t reflect their record. Obviously their turnovers are an issue for them, and I am sure that is something that they will work to rectify."

Up front, the Jets, who play a 3-4, have a pair of outstanding defensive ends in Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, a nose tackle nicknamed "Snacks" (Damon Harrison), and edge-rushers Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace. In the middle are tough-guy tacklers David Harris and DeMario Davis.

The Jets have struggled in the secondary, and will be without their best cornerback Darrin Walls (calf) on Sunday. If Ben Roethlisberger can stay upright, it's the area of Ryan's defense the Steelers hope to exploit.

There's also the question of whether the Steelers will suffer some type of an emotional letdown on the heels of the three consecutive emotional wins at home.

"I don't think so," said DeCastro. "With the 24-hour rule, you enjoy it and then you move on. Everyone's been ready to get back to work from the start of the week."


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