Steelers vs. J-e-t-s Preview: Tale of the Tape


Trap Game /træp geym/ – noun

"1. A contest between two teams which appears to be a mismatch causing the superior team to either look ahead and/or take their opponent lightly thereby turning a certain win into a stunning defeat 2. Steelers-Jets"

“Trap Game” is fast becoming one of the most overused trendy expressions since “jump the shark” entered popular lexicon. Just like every dweeb with a keyboard and access to would eagerly jump online to proclaim their favorite show “jumped the shark” when Mulder failed to mack on Scully or nobody bothered to explain what the hell that goofy black smoke-monster is doing on the island for the fifteenth time, it seems you can’t go on any sports-related website or blog without seeing the word “Trap Game” thrown around

But in the case of this week’s game against the New York Jets, the term “Trap Game” has never been more appropriate. The Jets are 1-8. They’re starting a newbie quarterback. All point to an easy win for the Black and Gold. Except the Steelers are coming off the emotional, Homecoming-like atmosphere of the Monday night game against Baltimore and then another emotional come-from-behind thriller against Cleveland. Next week, we have equally hapless Miami. In three weeks, we have a looming showdown with the New England Patriots. If ever there was a chance for us to come into a game flat, distracted, and emotionally spent, it’s this week.

After last year’s surprisingly successful season, and a guest-appearance on “The Sopranos,” Jets head coach Eric Mangini was dubbed the “ManGenius.” This year, he’s more of a Mangina as his biggest accomplishment was being the douche who tattled on Bill Belichek, touching off Spygate. Tony and I have three things in common: we’re Italian, we have mothers who nag incessantly, and we can’t stand snitches.

Anyway, although my preview can’t possibly compete with the one John has offerred below (is it just me or is the chick on the right sporting some massive cameltoe action?), I will endeavor to provide my weekly breakdown of the game.

Steelers Defense vs. Jets Offense

The only realistic chance I see for the Jets to score is if they wear their New York Titans throwback uniforms, lulling the Steelers D to sleep with the dull colors and uninspired design thereby allowing their players to run by them and score. People bitch about the Steeler throwbacks (I like them, by the way. The Mustard Helmets look lame, though) but no wonder the Titans went the way of vinyl LPs, Crystal Pepsi, and Britney Spears’ career. Even Denzel Washington couldn’t make those look good.

Kellen Clemens will make his third NFL start at QB this week. He took over for Chad Pennington, who was inexplicably allowed to start about 3 weeks longer than he should have. Pennington was a warrior with nifty footwork and sharp decision making but his arm is weaker than Happy Hour drinks down at Station Square. With Pennington’s candy arm eliminating anything more than 20 yards down the field, the Jets were forced to stick to short and intermediate routes, allowing opposing defenses to stack more than 8 in the box, making the run-after-catch impossible and totally killing any chance for RB Thomas Jones to get on track. It also didn’t help that their two main wide receivers (Lavernes Coles and Jerricho Cotchery) are mostly possession type wideouts so as long as our tackling is good, there isn’t much threat of a big play.

Clemens put up some nice numbers in his second start against a pretty good Washington defense. But the Steelers are a totally different animal. D-Coordinator Dick Lebeau has made a career out of abusing young signal callers. No team in the NFL is better at disguising their blitzes and coverage than the Steelers. Their linebackers and secondary are so athletic, you know somebody is covering and somebody is coming at you but you never know who, when, how many, and where they’re coming from. Clemens is going to be like a virgin on prom night: confused, befuddled, and blindly groping around hoping to hit on some random sequence of events which hit the jackpot.

DE Aaron Smith returned last week for the Steelers and you could immediately see a vast improvement in the run defense. You hardly heard the names of CBs Deshea Townshend or Ike Taylor which is a good thing because it meant their coverage was so good, Derek Anderson didn’t think they were open enough to throw at. FS Ryan Clark is out for the season. He’ll be replaced by Anthony Smith who I truly believe is an upgrade as long as he keeps his attitude under control and doesn’t draw any stupid taunting penalties like he did last week.

Steelers Offense vs. Jets Defense

Shaun Ellis was one of the more promising defensive ends in the game but coaching changes and injuries have limited his ability to play to his potential. LB Bryan Thomas has some skill but he also hasn’t played up to his potential. By far the weakest part of their defense last year was the secondary. They went out and drafted Pitt’s own Darelle Revis in order to rectify this situation.

As an aside, the draftniks last year had Revis being snatched up the the Steelers if he fell to pick #15. Those sneaky Jets took him at #14. I wonder how our D would look if we would’ve picked him up. Coming off last year where he was beat like a redheaded stepchild before being relegated to the bench, the Steelers had clearly soured on Ike Taylor. Had we drafted Revis and given him the big contract number one picks always demand, it’s highly possible Ike would be playing elsewhere this season.

Anyway, the Jets corners stunk last year while this year, they’re, well, they’re not much better. They’re starting Steeler castoff Hank Poteat for crying out loud. HANK POTEAT. That should tell you how thin they are at CB. Neither Andre Dyson or Justin Miller are very good, either. Revis has shown flashes of brilliance but he’s a rookie so he’s still prone to rookie mistakes plus he never gets the benefit of any of the calls you get when you’re a more established presence in the league.

WRs Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes will have a field day against this motley crew. TE Heath Miller, an emerging star who very soon deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Dallas Clarks and Jeremy Shockeys of the world, should also have a good game. I can’t see anybody in NY’s secondary being able to handle his combination of size and speed.

If Ben Roethlisberger is healthy, I expect another huge day from him. Health is a concern, however, as he’s been getting banged up (the injury report lists both hip and shoulder injuries among his more serious ailment) from the constant scrambling he’s been forced to do. Last week, I wished for the O-Line to give Big Ben a little shelter. Unfortunately, you don’t always get what you want. But if you try, sometimes, you get what you need.