Pittsburgh Steelers looking to stack a third conference win

A history lesson, tape review, prediction, complete breakdown and much more in this Jets-Steelers game day preview.


Steelers 38, Jets 10

Sept. 20, 1981 at Three Rivers Stadium

These New York Jets are on pace for 44 sacks this season, which is outstanding but well off the team record of 66 set 35 years ago. That's when the soon-to-be-named "New York Sack Exchange" came to Three Rivers Stadium for a matchup of 0-2 teams. The Jets' front four of Joe Klecko, Marty Lyons, Abdul Salaam and Mark Gastineau lined up against Jon Kolb, Craig Wolfley, Mike Webster, Steve Courson and Larry Brown, and the Steelers ran all over them. The Steelers gained 348 yards rushing -- 13 off the team record -- and ran for five touchdowns. The domination was so complete that the longest run by the Steelers went for only 23 yards. Russell Davis led the way with 100 yards, followed by Frank Pollard with 79 and Franco Harris with 68 yards. As for the Sack Exchange -- so dubbed two months later when the four linemen rang the opening bell on Wall Street -- only Klecko, with one of the two Jets' sacks overall, got home that day.


"The defensive line of the New York Jets is really the big part of that defense. The front end's better than the back end. In Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson you've got a front four that's terrific against the run, but it's curious because when you watch them and break it down they play with a high pad level. They get a quick hand extension, very quick, but when they pass rush they're very methodical. There's no Von Miller who'll scorch the arc around the tackle, no DeMarcus Ware to get that edge. They methodically move the pocket back and collapse it. The offensive line has its work cut out for it, because the Jets get after the passer even though they are methodical about it." -- Steelers Radio analyst Craig Wolfley.


Can the Steelers get rid of the ball before the pocket collapses?

Mike Mitchell directed traffic in the Steelers secondary all week against an array of weapons that seems to be expanding every each day: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, an ever-improving Sammie Coates, a returning-to-health Markus Wheaton, Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams. Mitchell could only chortle when asked what the opposing secondary has on its plate this week in facing that group. But the point here is that the Steelers can work around the hole they have at right tackle, where Marcus Gilbert and Ryan Harris are both out and third-teamer Chris Hubbard steps in. Can Hubbard prevent Wilkerson from sabotaging the Steelers offense? Or will Roethlisberger be able to get rid of the ball quickly to one of his many weapons? I'm sure we all expect the answer to the latter question to be yes.


Q: Whatever happened to the rotation you had wanted to establish with the defensive tackles this season?

CH: "We've got a good rotation. I thought last game we really used our rotation a lot more than the other games. I think it comes down to the fact we're not just switching in and out but when one of us gets tired we're not staying in there, we're trying to rotate other guys so we can stay fresh."

Q: Do you find yourself more fresh?

CH: "It's too early to tell. Obviously we want to be fresh once we get to December, so hopefully if we can keep a good rotation it'll help us down the road."

Q: Three sacks last week. Was that ankle injury a hindrance to you and is it feeling that much better?

CH: "I think it was more I had to get my conditioning back. When you take a week or two off it still messes you up. I'm still trying to get in better condition. The ankle's still there. I'm still feeling it. I'm not going hide behind it."


What to look for from the Steelers today at Heinz Field:


If the Steelers can get the pass off, they'll be throwing into a pass defense that ranks 31st in opposing passer rating, and the worst defense for yards allowed per attempt (9.7). The Steelers are improving offensively while the Jets are expected to be without cornerback Darrelle Revis (doubtful, hamstring) and possibly their other starting cornerback, Buster Skrine (questionable, knee).


In Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets have one of the coldest quarterbacks in the league. He's thrown 10 interceptions and only four touchdown passes. He gets rid of the ball -- only sacked six times -- but perhaps he ought not to sometimes. His primary receiver is Brandon Marshall, but he's caught only 16 of the 39 passes he's been thrown. Eric Decker is out with a shoulder injury, but the Jets have an underrated gem as the No. 3 WR in Quincy Enunwa (23 catches, 243 yards). However, he's questionable with a knee injury. The Jets can run the ball with Matt Forte, whom Mike Tomlin thought of when he first scouted Le'Veon Bell. Forte has rushed for 288 yards at 3.6 per carry and also has 11 receptions.


If Roethlisberger can get rid of the ball, which is very likely, and the defense can stop Forte, which isn't as likely but is very possible, the Steelers should win this game handily. It's a great spot for them, since Roethlisberger excels in the month of October and the team has historically fared well in the second of back-to-back home games. Steelers, 33-17.


2: Number of touchdowns scored by opponents following the playing of "Renegade" in home games this season.

11: Number of touchdown passes for Ben Roethlisberger this season, tying Terry Bradshaw (1980) and Mark Malone (1985) for the team record in the first four games of a season. Roethlisberger's also tied with Matt Ryan for the NFL lead.

19: Number of wins in Roethlisberger's 20 October home starts. His only loss occurred in 2008 to the New York Giants.

47.8: Jordan "Mate" Berry's gross punting average, slightly higher than the team record of 47.0 held by Bobby Joe Green in 1961.

79: Rushing yards needed by Le'Veon Bell to give him 3,000 for his career.

103.9: Roethlisberger's passer rating in his last three games against the Jets.


* The Steelers will wear their "bumblebee" throwback uniforms today for the last time. The team announced it won't have a throwback uniform next season as it mulls its options for the future. This will mark the sixth game in five years the Steelers have worn their 1934 jerseys. They are 3-2 in those games, with the losses coming to Baltimore (2012) and Cincinnati (2015).

* Ramon Foster raved about how well B.J. Finney played in his place at left guard last Sunday before saying, "It's not the starter you worry about. The backups come in and they play their rear ends off. And not just O-linemen, D-linemen too. We were playing the Packers one year and the starter got hurt and this guy came in and he was playing so hard, man. Me and Dave (DeCastro) were like, 'Who the (expletive) is that?' Well he was Mike Daniels, and now he's a $60 million man."

* Le'Veon Bell was asked about the running backs he watched growing up. "I liked LaDainian (Tomlinson)," Bell started. "I liked Curtis Martin. I like Adrian Peterson. Those are three different kind of backs. I think watching all of them kind of helped me become the player I am. Adrian Peterson is great between the tackles; I think I'm more built like him, kind of taller and leaner. LaDainian was a guy who caught a lot of balls out of the backfield. Marshall (Faulk) lined up wide, ran slants and things like that, running glances. I kind of put all their games into my game to help me become the player I am."

* The Jets have won only once in Pittsburgh, on Dec. 19, 2010, when they beat the Steelers 22-17. The Steelers gained revenge little more than a month later with a 24-19 win in the AFC Championship Game. The Steelers are 9-1 against the Jets in Pittsburgh.

* Former Steelers Steve McLendon and Wesley Johnson are with the Jets. McLendon is a starting defensive tackle and has two sacks among his five tackles-for-loss. Johnson is a reserve offensive lineman who's filled in at left guard this season. Also, working for the Jets as offensive coordinator is Chan Gailey, the Steelers offensive coordinator in 1996-97.

* Last Sunday the Steelers at times took fill-in SS Jordan Dangerfield off the field and replaced him with a third cornerback. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked what he calls that sub-package. "We call it different things," he said. "We have a personnel group we call 'dude,' we have a personnel group we call 'guy,' a personnel group we call 'quarters,' and 'dime,' 'okie.'" Butler was asked about the dude package. "We couldn’t figure out what we wanted to call it," Butler said. "And somebody just said, 'Hey, dude.' That’s what we called it."


"Their front is as good as we have seen. They are really, really good. They create pressure. They are disruptive against the run. Obviously they are ranked high in yards per carry. You know they are giving up very little. On the back end, they have a lot of quality guys. It just looks like a breakdown here or there. Some of the same kind of stuff that will happen to us on offense. And I think that makes it difficult to say we are attacking this or that." -- Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley.


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