New York had to prepare for different types of football to beat two teams like the Patriots and Colts who win by playing a pretty game, where they come out and slice you up like they drew it up during the week on the blackboard. The Steelers win ugly. Big Ben makes big plays on broken plays. Rex Ryan and his boys will come to Pittsburgh with their fists balled up but their job will be very difficult.
The Steelers defense knocks balls loose and picks off passes and scores with them. They beat you up and punish your playmakers. The Jets were more physical than the Patriots and the Colts but it will be very difficult to be more physical than the Steelers.
The Jets shut down Tom Brady and his passing attack by covering his receivers like a blanket. The New York defense will have to do it again if they’re going to stop Ben Roethlisberger this weekend.
Unlike Brady, Roethlisberger has no problem if he has to hang onto the football. Brady was unsettled in the pocket when the Jets made him hold the ball, but Big Ben seems to like it when he has to hold the football and wait for a receiver to get open. You can’t get this guy to the ground and he always keeps his eyes downfield, even if he’s got three guys hanging on him.
Big Ben is extremely dangerous when he breaks a tackle and is given the chance to hit a receiver, who has had six seconds to get open.
The Jets have great people in the secondary to lock down receivers. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie do an outstanding job of covering receivers, but Big Ben could throw the ball to anybody at any time. Mike Wallace is the most dangerous of the Steelers weapons because of his speed.
Veteran Hines Ward will catch the ball anywhere, take a big hit and hang onto it. Tight end Heath Miller makes big catches for Pittsburgh and Big Ben will come to him in the red zone with all the chips on the table. Antwaan Randle El is the team’s punt returner and slot receiver. He can make tacklers miss and turn short throws into big plays.
Before the Jets have to deal with Big Ben, they’re going to get a major dose of Rashard Mendenhall and the Steelers running game. The Jets have an outstanding run defense and it’s a good thing because the Steelers will run the ball whether it’s working or not.
I think this game will be decided when the Jets are on offense and Mark Sanchez has the football in his hands. He’s got to take care of the football, yet make some plays with pass rush pressure in his face. The young quarterback will have to play one of the best games of his career to get the W.
He’ll have outside linebacker James Harrison coming from his backside and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley in his face on the frontside. They’ll try to strip the ball if they get to him, so he must protect the football.
Sanchez needs to know where Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is lined up on every play. Polamalu didn’t practice most of the week, so I don’t think he’s at full strength and will be as much of a factor as he usually is.
New York must help their young quarterback by running the ball against the best run defense in the NFL. The battle between Jets center Nick Mangold and Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton will be a sight to see. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Green must find a way to gain some yardage or the Steelers will make them one-dimensional. If that happens look out.
The Jets have a couple of wide receivers who have shown that they can make the plays with games on the line. Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes can make a tough catch and take the ball the distance, but they’re also capable of dropping balls right in their hands. They both need to have big games, if the running game doesn’t get going.
Tight end Dustin Keller could get the chance to come through with a big game for the Jets. I don’t think Polamalu can cover him with his achilles problems, but New York has to have enough guts to attack him.
The key to this game will be Sanchez’ ability to throw the football but protect it and stay away from turnovers. I don’t see them beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh. I think it will be a good battle but Sanchez will be in an almost impossible situation once the Steelers shut down his running game.
If the New York offensive line can somehow exert their will on the Steelers defensive front, it would give the Jets the balance they need to put points on the board and control the game. That’s not likely to happen.
Roethlisberger can play poorly for the first three quarters, but his defense will keep him within striking distance and he’ll make a few plays down the stretch to win it. The Jets have surprised me so far, but if they find a way to win this one, I’ll take my hat off to them. I’ve got to pick the Steelers even if the Rex Ryan and the Jets are on an amazing run.
Steelers 24 Jets 13