Looking to bounce back from a frustrating loss last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-6) travel to the New York Jets (5-9) with a reunion in place & numbers favoring they should.
Redemption seems like the only viable option right now for Steelers fans, but perspective must begin to settle in. What is it exactly that we want out of the rest of the 2019 season? As playoff chances have dropped from 68 to 50%, according to nytimes.com, would the post-season be the cherry on top for what has been accomplished or the solidification for what has occurred?
Quantifying success is the point of asking these questions. However, a bright thought to carry it all is that the young stars of the team grew into leader-like roles with so much thrown against them. To still even have such playoff odds & be a 3 point favorite heading into Sunday against the New York Jets (5-9), 2019 can truly already be deemed successful for Pittsburgh. With aims to end it on a high-note for motivation heading into next season, the Jets present a very favorable matchup.
Although they have done well, going 4-2 in their past 6 games, the record is a bit deceiving. Credit for winning, but the combined opponent’s record they beat in that span is 15-41 on the season. Substantial to know considering the Jets are also 1-5 against teams that are .500 or better in 2019.
The return of Bell
As the self-inflicting tirade between WR Antonio Brown & the NFL continues, a gracious return for at least one of the former “Killer B’s” can still happen, and is expected.
Though many might want to feel and depict anguish or spitefulness, relationships always run deeper from what is seen on social media & should be a warming sight come Sunday. The worst part of it all, at least for RB Le’ Veon Bell is the season he’s having. With career-low numbers in regards to total rushing yards, yards per carry, yards per game, and rushing touchdowns, it mirrors the running game efficiency the Jets are having as a whole.
Despite a respectable backfield with backup RBs Bilal Powell & Ty Montgomery, none of them average more than 4.0 YPC or have scored more than 3 rushing touchdowns. Ranked 31st in the NFL for rushing yards per game (77.6), the passing attack for the Jets doesn’t do much to help.
A slight improvement from his rookie season, the change in numbers hasn’t even been as drastic as we saw with QB Josh Allen last week. Darnold, though with two weeks left, currently has 17 touchdowns (0), 15 INTs (-2), a 7.0 Y/A (+.1), 6.4 AY/A (+.3), 84.3 (+6.7) QB rate, and averages 20 more passing yards per game as opposed to 2018.
Leading the 32nd efficient passing offense, 2019 just has been a rollercoaster for the Jets & their aerial attack. After a November with an 8-2 TD to INT ratio, a QB rate that steadily increased by the week from 85.4-127.8, and Y/A following suit from 6.67-10.86, it’s been more than just the northern weather that has seen a decrease in December. Darnold has yet to complete more than 60% of his passes in a single game this month and has had back-to-back with an INT & fumble through the past two weeks.
A chance to take advantage of for the Steelers defense to only make its case stronger for history & the crown in 2019, New York has a surprisingly decent defensive unit that is strong against the run but can still be exposed.
Ranked 2nd in the league for opposing rushing yards (88.8), it’s strange that where their bulk of the talent is located on the defense, has been the worst. A secondary with the likes of now 2-time Pro-Bowler S Jamal Adams, S Marcus Maye, & CB Brian Poole, they currently find themselves 24th in passing defense DVOA.
On the year, only two teams have passed for more than 300 yards on the Jets and they haven’t allowed one to throw for more than 250 since week 10, but the lack of turnovers & efficiency is troubling. Just 8 interceptions (tied 3rd-lowest) and averaging a 92.4 passer rating against opposing QBs, teams are still finding their way without the volume.
Couple this with a sack percentage of 5.58% for the year (2.1 per game), there isn’t much splash outside the names that are effective for this defense.
Heartfelt emotions will exchange, to begin with as Le’Veon Bell makes his debut against the Steelers, but a daring attitude needs to take place immediately for Pittsburgh. Punting two out of the last four weeks on their opening drives along with an INT, the Steelers have been able to muster up a total of 3 points in that span. Leaving room for chance, an initial lead should make the Jets lose their footing early, later earning Pittsburgh a convincing win.