Saturday, 15 September 2012

3 Key Matchups- Jets @ Steelers

While the Jets are looking to build on an impressive, and unexpected, win against Buffalo, the Steelers are desperate to bounce back from a loss to the Broncos on the road. The Jets are short all-pro corner Darelle Revis, but the Steelers will miss OLB James Harrison and Hall of Fame safety Troy Polomalu just as badly. This game would seem to favour the Steelers, but the Jets can lay the foundations for an upset win in Pittsburgh if they come out on top of some key matchups.

Lamarr Woodley vs Austin Howard

The Jets inexperienced right tackle generated some shock and awe last sunday as he got on top of Mario Williams, but Pittsburgh's key rusher Lamarr Woodley represents just as stern a challenge. In the absence of James Harrison, the Steelers will be relying on Woodley to get to Mark Sanchez and disrupt the Jets passing game, which relies on giving the Sanchize functional time and space to make his throws. Howard will receive help from chip blocks and double teams, but if this game becomes a passing shootout he'll be increasingly left on an island against the fearsome Woodley. If Howard can build on his performance against the Bills, the sturdy Jets O-Line has the key to controlling this game.

Jets Interior Pass Rush vs  Steelers Interior Offensive Line

Two years ago, the Steelers hosted the Jets in the AFC Championship Game and won. That crushing defeat, and the manner of it, has enormously shaped the way the Jets have built.their team since. Incredibly frustrated by Ben Roethlisberger's ability to just run away from run stuffing linemen like Sione Po'uha and Mike DeVito, the Jets have spent two first round picks and a third rounder on more athletic youngsters in the trenches. Meanwhile, the traditionally porous Pittsburgh line has alreay lost first rounder David DeCastro, and Ramon Foster will play on Sunday despite being injured in Pittsburgh's opener. If the Steelers are going to get the ball downfield against the Revis-less Jets secondary then their maligned interior line is going to have to come up with big plays against a hungry young group of freakish athletes.

Casey Hampton vs Nick Mangold

The Jets know exactly how they want to beat the Steelers. They want to get off the line, hit someone in the mouth, and send Shonn Greene up the middle until the Steelers linebackers are too beaten and bruised to run. Conversely, the Steelers know that if the Jets can be forced to put the game on the arm of Mark Sanchez, then opportunities to create turnovers will arise. The fight to establish that violent running game starts with a marquee matchup right at the heart of the physical battle. Casey Hampton has been one of the best pure nose tackles in the game fora long time. Most teams wouldn't dare leave someone one on one with him in the run game, but then again, most teams don't have Nick Mangold. The all-pro center has his work cut out on Sunday, as the truly great man across from him will demand a flawless performance.

Quick Hits

1. Safety Dance- Although Polomalu may be out, the Steelers are lucky to have Ryan Clark back. One of the most impressive, and underrated, safeties in the league, his absence has been a key factor in the consecutive losses at Mile High.

2. Steel City Mayhem- The Jets need to use Aaron Maybin in this game, and they need him to step up. Their 2011 sack leader barely got on the field against his old team last week, but but the Jets need him to replicate the Denver speed rush that gave the Steelers enormous problems in their opener.

3. Smashmouth- The Steelers need to commit to the run, but this is a tough team to do it against. The Jets have traditionally been very sturdy against the run, and the Steelers will need a big game from the emerging Jonathan Dwyer if they're to balance the offense and control the pace of the game.

4. The Student must become the Master- In the fourth quarter of that brutal AFC Championship defeat, Kyle Wilson got to an ill-judged Big Ben pass, but let it pass through his hands and hit him in the facemask. The game could have spun on that moment, but the rookie let it go. Since that time, Wilson has worked incredibly hard with Darelle Revis to improve his game, culminating in a career performance against the Bills. Nobody left more on the field two years ago than Wilson, so he needs to come back with a vengeance with his mentor confined to the sidelines.

5. Rextraordinary Evidence- Rex Ryan may have given up predicting Superbowls, but he's lost none of his confidence. He opened the season by referring to himself as the best defensive coach in football, a title that would usually pass by consensus to Dick LeBeau. Luckily for him, Rex has a chance this week to go to LeBeau's house and make his bold claim seem a lot less far-fetched.

6. Holy Smokes!(and mirrors)- The Steelers know exactly what Tim Tebow can do if you underestimate him, because they learned the hard way in January. While it's unlikely that Tebow will be the key to this game, it can't hurt the Jets that time spent by the Steelers preparing for the Tebowcat is time not spent preparing for Shonne Greene and Mark Sanchez.

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