Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Jets: Keys to Victory
The Pittsburgh Steelers will enter this weekend tied atop the AFC North division race with the Cleveland Browns, who just won their divisional matchup on Thursday Night Football over the Cincinnati Bengals. Even after the thrilling offensive performances the Steelers have put up over the past two weeks, leaving New York without sole possession of first place in the division would be a total and complete let down. The AFC North is ripe for the taking and the New York Jets are standing in the Steelers way. Here’s what they’ll have to do to ensure a victory on Sunday afternoon.
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Play focused, disciplined football
The Steelers should have already learned their lesson of underestimating an opponent when they lost to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home in Week 4. Now is not the time to take the 1-8 Jets lightly. They may be a dumpster fire of an organization right now but a team with nothing to fear can be a formidable opponent for sure. It’s easy to look down the road and expect the team to be 8-3 going into their bye week in two weeks but, at this moment, it’s time to focus on the Jets. Taking unnecessary penalties or not protecting the ball could be all the fuel the Jets need to steal one from the Steelers. The Jets played competitive against the Packers, Lions, Broncos, Patriots, and Chiefs but their only win was against the winless Oakland Raiders so you never know what you’re going to see on Sunday.
Stop the run
New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan will be a “ground and pound” guy till the day they take his head set away from him. The Jets have a trio of running backs in Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, and Bilal Powell that make up the NFL’s second-best rushing offense, averaging 139.9 yards per game. You can go ahead and throw Michael Vick’s rushing threat into the mix as well this week; you know he’s going to be improvising at least at some point during the game. The Steelers were able to stop Baltimore’s rushing attack last week, but were unable to get their own yards on the ground themselves. Part of not falling victim to a “let down” against an inferior opponent is not being as aggressive as you would against a tougher opponent. The Steelers defense needs to go after the Jets like they stole something from them.
Ride the hot hand
Ben Roethlisberger is on fire right now. Whatever it is, the play-calling, his receivers, the offensive line, it’s all coming together and putting up historic numbers on offense. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this but Todd Haley has been going hatless the past two games. Not saying that has anything to do with anything but I might be saying that if he’s wearing a hat on Sunday I might lose it. While the Steelers should be able to run the ball better than the 55 yards they mustered against the Ravens last week, it’s definitely not time for Haley to let up on Ben keeping on doing whatever the hell it is he’s doing that has all of us coming into work on Monday mornings like giddy school girls. Last week I said there was no way we could expect to see Ben throw another six touchdown passes, only to see Ben go out and throw another friggin six touchdown passes. Unreal. I don’t want to see this momentum let up one bit. Just as the Steelers need to be aggressive defensively to avoid the let down against the hapless Jets, they’ll need to be offensively aggressive as well if they want to go into Week 11 with sole possession of the top spot in the AFC North. The Jets might not be in the AFC North but they’re standing in the way of our first place spot. It’s not a situation where the Jets are just going to give it up to the Steelers no matter what their record is they’ll have to go into New York and take it.